So, there I was, walking dogs at Holmby Park, a little slice of greenery in Holmby Hills, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Although the forecast called for rain, the sun played peek-a-boo with clouds about as menacing as fluff balls of cotton. Beyond the clouds was bright blue sky for as far as the eye could see.
Nannies pushed their charges in strollers. Dog walkers gathered near the southwest drinking fountain, packs in tow, gearing up for their group run across the park and down Comstock Avenue toward parts unknown. A pair of ducks waddled across the putting green. Assorted joggers and walkers got their heart rates going on the path that laps the park. A tour van of lookie-loos cruised by. Day laborers and construction workers swarmed the food trucks parked across the street. Yep. It was business as usual in this tony enclave. Much more pass-me-a-Corona-dude than oh-my-gawd-Coronavirus!
By the time I returned to the Valley that afternoon, it was much more apparent things weren’t exactly copacetic. Disneyland announced a temporary park closure for the first time since 9/11. Governor Newsom signed an executive order banning gatherings of more than 250 (within days, that number would drastically drop to a maximum of ten) and the term “social distancing” was trending on Twitter.
Since I had a couple of hours, I decided to pick up a few basic staples at the market. I mean, wine is a staple, right? Now, I typically do my marketing first thing Saturday morning, but after listening to news reports on NPR, something told me I should act now, because Lord knew where we’d be come the weekend.
It was 1:30 on a Thursday afternoon. I figured most people would still be at work. I shoulda known better. For days the news had been reporting stories about people desperately clamoring for stuff like toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Social media outlets circulated dozens of videos showing the mayhem playing out in overcrowded big box stores across the country as shoppers vied for a lifetime’s supply of toilet paper. It kinda reminded me of the frantic bank runs after the stock market crashed in 1929, or how, in 1983, people got in physical altercations over Cabbage Patch dolls.
So here we are, ten days later. Can’t say too much has changed.
On Saturday, I went out at 7am to do my marketing. I always go early, but never this early. I just knew if I didn’t, the shelves would be seriously picked over and my goal was to get everything my daughter and I needed so I wouldn’t have to shop again for a good long while. As a lifelong asthmatic, my lungs are fairly susceptible to respiratory infections, so being in a congested supermarket is no bueno for me, since it’s virtually impossible to keep a safe social distance in the frozen food aisle.
As expected, there was a line of shoppers awaiting their turn to enter the market. The door was manned by one of the store’s managers, who looked utterly exhausted, poor thing. Once inside, the mood was incredibly intense. Everyone was on edge and the peppy pop muzak playing did not pair well with the doomsday ambience.
As it happens, paper goods and pet supplies share an aisle. By the time I steered my cart down the aisle, the paper towels were long gone, but there were still about forty packages of toilet paper, so I tossed one in my cart, along with one of the last bags of Sparky’s preferred brand of dog food. I continued to snake my way around the store, being mindful to take only what we needed. I also made a concerted effort to express my appreciation to the war torn store employees I encountered as they are bravely navigating the front lines. I have so much gratitude for them. They are heroes in my book and they damn well deserve hazard pay.
About twenty minutes later, as I waited in the check out line, a clearly frustrated gentleman rolled his cart past mine. He noticed the toilet paper in my cart and grumbled angrily under his breath as he headed toward the produce aisle. I surmised the shelves of toilet paper had since been cleared. You know what they say, the early bird gets the worm.
Seriously, though. I don’t blame the guy for being pissed. There really should be no shortage of toilet paper at this point. Unfortunately, there are scads of people who either fail to see that this coronavirus situation we’re in impacts all of us, or they simply don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves. This dog-eat-dog attitude does nobody any good and is especially harmful to the most vulnerable among us.
This virus knows no bounds. No country, race, religion, socio-economic status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or age group is immune. This scourge is the great equalizer. I’m thinking perhaps it’s nature’s way of rioting against greed, gluttony, entitlement, our incessant need for instant gratification, and the rampant destruction we’ve unleashed upon our precious ecosystem.
Maybe, just maybe, the universe is providing for us an opportunity to reboot and reevaluate our lives, to rediscover simple pleasures and seriously appreciate what’s really important, like the things all the money in the world can’t buy.
It’s absolutely vital we acknowledge the bigger picture here. I mean, not to be dramatic, but it seems to me that we’re being called upon to meet this moment with grace, patience, compassion, responsibility, empathy, and humility– as a community– for the sake of humanity. It’s an exceedingly tall order, but I believe well within the realm of possibility.
Look, I get that people are scared, I’m scared. The entire world has been commandeered by a contagion the likes of which we’ve never seen. People are dying, businesses have been forced to close their doors, global suffering is profuse. We’re in the thick of it with no viable, visible conclusion in sight, but this horror show will end.
When all is said and done, life as we knew it will never be the same again. I can’t imagine reverting back to the status quo after this. I can’t imagine that we won’t have a greater appreciation for our health, for this beautiful planet we inhabit, for our loved ones, our dedicated educators, first responders, and men and women who continuously show up to work everyday so that we could fill our baskets.
The unnerving reality is it’s going to get worse before it gets better, but if we all do our part, if we hang tight and remember we’re in this together, I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll be better for it.