Words to Live By
My 90-year-old father’s comfort and safety are the primary criteria considered for all decisions I make. Aside from being a great privilege to care for him as he navigates the end years of his life, this focus is remarkably liberating. Considering stay-at-home orders and dining and recreation restrictions, fewer choices make decision-making easier. I no longer drive to separate locations to buy fish, artisan bread, farm eggs, organic produce, eco-friendly household products, organic nutritional supplements, farmstead cheese and yoghurt, and so on; chewing up four or five hours, punctuated by a work-of-art salad lunch at a reclaimed warehouse-cum-trendy brew pub. These days, I shop about once every ten days, making the fewest number of stops possible.
Enter the Big Box Store Near Me. My woke-FairTrade-environment-employee-alphabet-soup-group-friendly got-my-own-shopping-bag-righteous-liberal Baby Boomer persona was forced into hibernation via pandemic and paternity. It took a few forays before I was able to swallow the indignity of shopping in a place where almost everything is mass-produced in a third world country ten time zones away. But what really gave me pause was the grumpy fellow who kept the customer count at the door and disinfected the carts. From his flat-footed trudge to the sullen set of his shoulders, I hated coming in and leaving the store, lest his flow of pyroclastic energy steal what little oxygen the face mask allowed. After my first charm offensive failed on the charm but succeeded on the offensive, I gave up and worked on being invisible. Months went by.
A few weeks after the winter holiday, I put on a new hooded sweatshirt, grabbed my list and a clean face mask, and steeled myself against a possible sighting of the crabby cart cleaner customer counter. Marveling at the continued shortages of Kleenex, toilet paper, and bottled water; I got clear through the check out without catching a glimpse. So far, so good. Then, a voice rang out: “What kind of tea do you drink?” Stunned, I found myself under the gaze of the curmudgeon as he took my cart from me, megawatt smile on his face, judging from the eyes above the mask. I stumbled to respond, how does this guy know I am a tea geek? Apparently, he read my mind because he pointed to my new hoodie, silkscreened with a teapot and the slogan “Make tea, not war.”
“I like black and oolong. What about you?” I smiled back, thinking how smiling has always been a function of the eyes, but it took a pandemic to realize it.
“I like English tea,” he replied, “Strong.” A vague British accent, perhaps Australia, evidenced in the vowels.
“Ahhh,” I nodded, “Yorkshire gold, man!” He threw his head back and pumped the air. “Right!”
We bumped elbows and I made my way out.
Words to live by: Make tea, not war.
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