• JH

COVID Diaries 5: Who Bought All Of The Tofu?

It almost felt normal today.

I got up this morning after a mostly sleepless night to go to the grocery store. I don’t think the insomnia was related to the COVID, at least in a direct way. I think it’s possible that these circumstances are having an amplifying effect on underlying conditions, so maybe me sitting at my dining room table reading a book by the light of my phone at 4:00 a.m. was peripherally connected to my grocery store trip.

Probably not.

In any case, I view grocery excursions with a certain trepidation these days. It’s something for which I have to steel myself, like driving to school back in my student teacher days. It takes a certain amount of courage on my part to hold the nerves together and reassure myself that everything’s okay.

Today was a miracle by modern standards. I rounded the corner to the plaza where my store of choice is located, fully expecting the now normal line of customers down the whole plaza, but there was – I swear to you – no line this morning! It was like retro shopping. Like all the way back in 2019. There was no kid stopping everyone from going in. No security guard. Nobody wiping down carts. I stood there baffled for a second and then just … walked in.

Can you imagine?

The only differences between now and the old days were the people in masks and the taped arrows on the floor, telling me which direction I was supposed to shop in. (Aside: A few weeks ago I saw a guy tee off on a lady who tried to come the wrong way down a one-way aisle. Frankly, I think he overreacted, but I guess we have to cut people some emotional slack right now.)

I did my shopping, observing our accepted social distancing best practices, and while it wasn’t exactly a pleasant outing, it was certainly less tense. At a certain point I noticed a distinct lightness come over my body, which tells me a lot about how much heaviness there’s been. How much heaviness there still is. Maybe that had something to do with last night’s sleep after all.

I’ve been both amused and perplexed by what’s been sold out at the grocery store through all of this. One week I couldn’t get flour. Last week it was firm tofu. Toilet paper, obviously, at least in the beginning. Today no corn tortillas. No pancake batter. A few weeks ago it was popcorn kernels.

Who bought up all of the firm tofu?

The day that was sold out I was expecting it to be raining locusts when I went back outside.

I hope you at least smiled at that. Just a little.

I had a realization on the weekend that one of the best things anyone can do right now is put a bit of lightness into the world. A bit of goodness, because the rage is taking over. Rage from the rule-breakers. Rage against the rule-breakers. Rage against the rage against the rule-breakers. You can see it on social media.

Photos of crowds in Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Videos of American revellers turning their local waterpark into a Petri dish.

White supremacists marching beneath Nazi flags (as if those flags in some way represent freedom).

What do you do with that if you’re a reasonable, rational human being? I mean, there’s got to be some element in all of us that wants to lash out. That needs an enemy. This thing is invisible. It’s a phantom. Human beings who feel powerless will usually do one of two things: surrender or fight. People who want to fight need someone to fight with, so they fight with each other. Or the government. Or the media. Rage makes people short-sighted. Selfish. Superior. Irrational.

Sometimes fighting means sharing a joke in a blog post. Putting a funny meme on Facebook. Smiling instead of scowling at a lady when you realize that you can’t get past each other in the grocery story aisle. I had a moment like that today and it was nice. It really was. It was a way to fight all of this rage that is the undercurrent to life in the world right now.

That’s not a free pass for your garden variety #COVIDIOTS, by the way. We’ll know in a few days what the fallout from “opening up” is and how much thanks for it is owed to the weekend crowds. We still have to be smart and cautious about this, but if you want to make some small difference, I suggest a smile where it’s possible. A laugh where you can find one. A gesture of kindness if the opportunity presents itself. Focus on those gestures and the people who make them, because information is food.

You gotta get it from the right store.