The extra-large container of dread
Just got back from doing the riskiest thing I have done in the three months since the Covid hit the fan:
I went to Costco.
I hadn't driven the car in so long, it almost didn't start. But it turned over after a couple of tries. Driving felt a little strange. Traffic was light, I guess, but I'm starting to forget, along with what day it is, what normal traffic used to look like.
Now, being a geezer, I was there for the over-60 hour, which is first thing in the morning. Mask on, gloves on, list in my head, into the big box I went. Hardly anybody there at 5 after 9. No line whatsoever.
My gloves touch the handle of a shopping cart for the first time in a quarter of a year.
First stop: Paper products, in the back. Paper towels – check. Toilet paper? Sorry. Only those gigantor rolls that you might find in a public restroom. We're not that desperate yet. Plus, I still have eight volumes of last year's federal tax regulations in a box, if things get really tough.
Laundry detergent? No problem. Charcoal, ditto. Wine, they've got all kinds of wine, but I am determined not to linger. I grab a mixed half case of this and that. Not worrying too much about the rating numbers.
Cleaning wipes? You've got to be kidding, no. But they do have some big jugs of hand sanitizer. "Limit: 1," it says, highlighted in yellow. I take it to the limit.
Gatorade, Pellegrino water, chocolate bark, and down the stretch they come. Always a stop at the flower stand. The alstromeria is perfect for our place, and it lasts forever. The flower lady is there. "You got a good thing going on," I say. But a little voice in the back of my head says, "Let's get the hell out of here."
Not much of a checkout line. Funny thing: The over-60 set doesn't look so old to me any more.
A guy one line over has a box of face masks. Face masks! There's something I should have grabbed. I wonder where they were.
But the little voice tells me, there's no turning back now.
OMG, then I notice, the food court is gone! Completely gone. They're still making pizza for takeout, I guess, but pizza is the only item displayed. Not a hot dog come-on to be seen. A bleak little sign says "Limited Menu." And the serving window is this tiny thing that looks like bulletproof glass. Without the pizza sign, you might think that's where they kept the cash and the oxycodone.
Soon it is my turn to step up and unload the cart. The checkout guy doesn't touch my card. He's behind plexiglass. He scans the thing with a scanner gun. The card doesn't even have to go into a slot to make payment – I just wave it at the little box, and it registers.
But then. The guy hands me a receipt. I'd rather not take it, but it's Costco, you can't get out the door without it. He's got a rubber glove on, but as Granny Alice used to say, honey, you don't know where that's been.
The receipt checkers at the exit sit at little desks now. Plexiglass there, too. The woman takes my receipt, draws a purple smiley face on it with a sharpie, hands it back to me. From her glove to mine.
Suddenly, a man without a mask walks by me. He's coming in while I'm going out. The only unmasked person that I've seen in the whole place. Younger guy, looks like he knows where he's going. I hold my breath a little until he's past.
A half hour after bravely daring to enter, I exit the building. Back at the car, parked closer than I can ever get normally, I load everything in and toss the mask on the floor in front of the passenger seat. The gloves, too. And I go nuts with some homemade hand sanitizer that I brought with me.
I have to pause while a dude in a huge pickup with Washington plates, a University of Utah plate holder, and two Trump bumper stickers pulls out. I almost yell something at him, but think better of it. Then it's my turn to roll. On a wing and a prayer, I turn onto the main road. Waze informs me that the safety of home is just 18 minutes away.
But wait! The berry stand by the K-Mart is open! I can't resist the temptation. I swerve into the parking lot. The wine bottles clink against each other. I put the mask back on.
The berry lady is also behind plexiglass now. She has a mask, but it's down around her neck. Take a half-flat of the strawberries, she says, they're good today. Sure, I say, maybe the neighbors will take some off our hands.
Then the most dangerous moment of them all: I pull out my wallet with my bare hands and hand her a $20 bill. She, also bare-handed, hands me two ones for change. I shove them in my front pocket with the Costco receipt. Yikes! More homemade hand sanitizer. Everything feels dirty now.
I read somewhere that you need to make a risk budget to help you decide what you can and can't do until this mess is over. That little outing should hold me for at least a month.