Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Duration: Altoids as a Contributing Factor

 

I stopped in the Walgreens to see if they had flour. They did not have flour. Would’ve turned around and left, but I am almost out of Altoids and they had peanuts on sale – so now I’m committed. You can either bolt when they don’t have the item you came for, or roll the dice and make something of the trip into the covadian miasma.

There was a woman in line wearing a face mask, which made the rest of us uneasy: what does she know? Nothing we don’t. There was a snuggly-toothed guy redolent of cigarettes walking up and down asking for a ride, because he’d missed his bus. Sorry. I eyeballed the rack of Hostess snack cakes and powdered donuts, and thought: I want to inhale all of those, but the womenfolk back home would be appalled. They have their exercise bands and mats and videos and the treadmill and they will be hanged if they come out of this thicker. 

WHY isn’t this line moving. 

Ah: there’s a rack of good bread. Two for seven dollars. Well, I’m not a hoarder if I take two. Then I note that the woman in front of me is buying Easter candy, and I see a display with Kinder eggs and packets of pastel-colored speckled candies. 

Right, Easter.

What day is this? 

What month is this?

I grab some Easter candy, thinking, I’ll hide them. It’s not much. The girls will have fun finding them. Daughter can teach Rotaria, our Spanish exchange student, about this tradition. I regret not picking up some shaved luncheon ham from the freezer, but I’m in line.

My turn. The clerk is tired. He doesn’t ask for my rewards number, because who gives a crap. I am happy about the modern world’s contactless innovations; I can wave my phone at the POS system and it logs me in, pays them off. 

Then he coughs.

I reel back, by instinct. I judge the cough: dry, wet, chronic, allergies, bronchial irritation? Who knows. He hands me the bag. In the car I get out the precious vial and disinfect.

Later I am talking to wife, who had been on errands, and stopped off at the same Walgreens. She said there were paramedics there. WHAT hold on why – did a clerk collapse?

No, they were just picking up some stuff. They walked in, looked around, said loudly “Anyone got any toilet paper? Didn’t think so” then went about their business.

“So there wasn’t a clerk who coughed and collapsed.”

“No. Well, I don’t know.”

Let my obit not say I died for Altoids, but for Easter candy. Okay, it was an afterthought, but in the end, it’s a better symbolic sacrifice. 

Then again, “he died living the way he wanted to live: minty fresh” isn’t a bad opening sentence. The paper has a rule about staff members writing their own obits, but I think these days, with all the demands of working from home and the pile-up in the workflow, they might make an exception. 

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  1. Stad Thatcher

    Since this whole thing started, the only places I’ve been to are the garbage dump and the convenience store down the street (beer run). However, my wife has all the stories of what it’s like in the stores. She mostly noticed what didn’t sell, such as cauliflower crust frozen pizzas . . .

    • #1
    • March 23, 2020, at 8:55 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Went to Walmart today for a new office vacuum cleaner. Mostly safe distancing, though not as much as the government would want around the check-out lines. Also they had vacuum cleaners without matching vacuum bag replacement supplies, and replacement bags that didn’t match the machines they were peddling. Odd, but not quite the oddness of current toilet paper locust attacks (none again on the shelves at Wally World this morning, and by now it should be coming out of the windows and chimneys of the homes of people who’ve been beating the delivery trucks to the stores each morning to increase their inventory).

    • #2
    • March 23, 2020, at 9:43 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Stad Thatcher

    You know what? All those businesses that have shut down could make money selling their toilet paper which is not being used . . .

    • #3
    • March 23, 2020, at 9:50 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Jim Beck Member

    I think Minty Fresh must be Gabby Haze’s (alternate spelling) city cousin. For the youngins 

    • #4
    • March 23, 2020, at 10:29 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. MarciN Member

    I am ready to make a prediction about the coming year right now: James Lileks will be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his Duration series. :-)

    • #5
    • March 23, 2020, at 12:36 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  6. Leslie Watkins Member
    Leslie Watkins Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    About masks. Yesterday afternoon I was in a higher end grocery store where I saw three people wearing masks. All were ethnically Asian. From afar I asked one of them, a man, where he got his mask. He said, “China. My wife brought it back.” I said, “They told us masks weren’t useful,” I said. “It helps,” he said.

    Of course it helps, I thought. Not fool-proof, but helpful, something anyone can do to feel a bit more secure except, wait for it, we’ve been told not to bother. For me, this totally sums up the situation we’re in. The powers that be don’t know anything for sure but are nonetheless quick to hand out advice that, at best, seems short-sighted and, at worst, bureaucratic equivocation. When I got home, I went on Amazon and was just about to buy a nice-looking pack of three (purported advice to the contrary be damned), when I saw the arrival date: late April/early May for every option on the page. Made me think that masks were dismissed, at least in part, because there weren’t enough of them to go around. I’m going to start wearing a scarf (western train robber style) when I go out. It may not save me, but I know it will help. 

    • #6
    • March 23, 2020, at 1:26 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  7. Doug Kimball Thatcher

    James –

    Unless you have some sort of chronic problem or immune deficiency, I think you’ll be OK. If you are recovering from chemo, suffer from Crohns, RA or Lupus, have difficult diabetes, heart disease, cirulatory problems, lung problems or smoke a pack a day or more, your trepidation is justified and I admire your courage for stepping out. Otherwise, the likelihood you will die of COVID 19 is less probable than expiring in a wreck as you make that left turn into Costco as the Kimberly-Clark delivery truck pulls in.

    I think self medication is in order.

    DK

    • #7
    • March 23, 2020, at 1:49 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  8. Scott R Member
    Scott R Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Somebody wittier than me said recently that a public cough is the new Allahu Akbar.

    • #8
    • March 23, 2020, at 3:53 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  9. Dotorimuk Coolidge

    Leslie Watkins (View Comment):

    About masks. Yesterday afternoon I was in a higher end grocery store where I saw three people wearing masks. All were ethnically Asian. From afar I asked one of them, a man, where he got his mask. He said, “China. My wife brought it back.” I said, “They told us masks weren’t useful,” I said. “It helps,” he said.

    Of course it helps, I thought. Not fool-proof, but helpful, something anyone can do to feel a bit more secure except, wait for it, we’ve been told not to bother. For me, this totally sums up the situation we’re in. The powers that be don’t know anything for sure but are nonetheless quick to hand out advice that, at best, seems short-sighted and, at worst, bureaucratic equivocation. When I got home, I went on Amazon and was just about to buy a nice-looking pack of three (purported advice to the contrary be damned), when I saw the arrival date: late April/early May for every option on the page. Made me think that masks were dismissed, at least in part, because there weren’t enough of them to go around. I’m going to start wearing a scarf (western train robber style) when I go out. It may not save me, but I know it will help.

    I also don’t know the real efficacy of wearing a mask. Students want to wear theirs below the nose when they get mask fatigue. The GOOD point of the mask, I think, is that it’s a constant reminder of who the enemy is, and to wash thoroughly, use the hand sanitizer and not touch your face. And, if you mouth the words to whatever song is playing in your earbuds, nobody notices.

    • #9
    • March 23, 2020, at 4:10 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. Richard Fulmer Member

    James Lileks: “he died living the way he wanted to live: minty fresh” isn’t a bad opening sentence.

    How about: “He died curiously strong”?

     

    • #10
    • March 23, 2020, at 7:25 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  11. Matthew Singer Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    You know what? All those businesses that have shut down could make money selling their toilet paper which is not being used . . .

    Better than what has been used :-)

    • #11
    • March 24, 2020, at 2:56 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Stad Thatcher

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    Unless you have some sort of chronic problem

    Rob stepping on his segues . . .

    • #12
    • March 25, 2020, at 6:16 AM PDT
    • 1 like