Social Distance Dinner Party

Social Distance Dinner Party

I was going to write something about my city opening back up and everything returning to a sense of normalcy, but now we are on lock down again. There has been a curfew in effect starting at 8pm for a few days. It is only for the city and county where I live and from what I can see it’s primarily enforced in the areas that have protesters. Nonetheless, we have lost some freedom, again. On the morning that I am writing this it sounds like the protests were peaceful last night. That’s great news for everyone. The nights before, not so much. And once again, life has changed on the grocery line

A Light In The Dark

If you remember, I work in a high-end grocery store located in an affluent neighborhood. It’s a place where some of the clientele aren’t emotionally equipped to hear that we don’t have the Atlantic Red Snapper they need for their “Social Distance Dinner Party” let alone the dissent among the masses filled with protests. Many of the regular customers have lived in their economic bubble for an exceptionally long time. Any disruption can cause a deeper distress even beyond the pandemic.

Our location is in the same city as the protests, but it’s on the opposite side of town. There is little to no danger in my store’s neighborhood. But that does not change the fact that Linda is on edge as she saunters through my line. We are all walking a tight rope with uncertainty waiting on either end and below us in the abyss. What will happen next? If you think shit has hit the fan, remember, we still have hurricane season and a presidential election coming in the fall.

Social Distance

Distracted or angry people come through my line from time to time – they always will, it’s inevitable, riots and pandemic be damned – we aren’t all improving how we treat each other. It might be a Linda. But it also might be a Dave. He married a Linda and is half in the bag most days. When he is sent to the store, he wears his face mask but it only covers his mouth. His nose hangs over like a flaccid penis. Dave resembles the aloof jock that you may have encountered in high school. He lucked out in life and makes great money. When he shops, the cart is full of items that don’t match, like fresh pressed juices, vegan noodles, organic asparagus, vegan cupcakes and regular coffee cake, crab legs, dry-aged ribeye steaks, salmon tofu, turmeric root and ginger, kale and watercress and tortilla chips that cost eight dollars a bag. He is an empty husk potential as he dumps his items onto the conveyor belt by the hand full.

Dave isn’t rude in the conventional sense. He is a nice guy overall. He jokes around with me in line. But just like Linda, he’s just an archetype of someone who has seen the world through a specific lens for an extended period of time. It’s not as if Dave doesn’t “care”. He just doesn’t know how to invest real emotion in others. He’s on cruise control. Dave and Linda are meant for each other – the way they react to this exhausting stretch of world history informs a deeply American experience.

Social Distance

He hands me the vegan cupcakes asking, “Can you bring these back for me? I don’t want them this time around.”

“Sure” I reply with an internal eye roll. I’ll never understand why so many people get to a register and all of the sudden they decide against some arbitrary item. I guess it’s a personal decision. Maybe it was all too much. Or it was an emotional buy and they realize it wasn’t something they needed?

Uncertainty of the future coupled with intense cultural conversations traversing public discourse sit like go-backs on the grocery line. The customers decided they didn’t want the items. I don’t want to have to take care of them either. But they need to be tackled, nonetheless. Luckily, I don’t have a closing shift, so, for now, I will keep bullshitting with Dave and I’ll kick the proverbial can down the road.

Social Distance

But as I grab Dave’s receipt, I start to imagine the riots are spreading to our side of the city. A rock crashes through the window. Dave yells, “Oh God! They’re here!” He grabs his cart and we run towards the back. I tell him to leave it. He is bewildered that I would tell him to abandon those delicious crab legs behind. We rush out the back doors. The sounds of breaking glass and loud yelling are deafening as we reach the back-parking lot. The building will be surrounded at any moment. We need to leave. Our fear is real.

“What do we do now?” Dave asks.

“I don’t know. But this is where we go our separate ways.” I reply.

He is mortified. “But I thought we had a good rapport, Jeff?”

“My name isn’t Jeff. It’s Daniel. But, anyway, I am sorry. It’s nothing personal. I don’t live anywhere close hear and I need to get home and they aren’t here for me. Good Luck.”