Things are – and will be – different

(Claire Schoen)

It felt like a jailbreak.

I hate food shopping but on Thursday I ventured out to Stop & Shop with my husband – definitely not something we normally do. He has been in charge of keeping the cupboards, refrigerator and pantry stocked for nearly 30 years, a solitary activity. But I was dying to go with him.

We’ve been good about staying inside, more or less. A trip to Calf Pasture for a walk with a friend over the weekend, keeping distance. I did try to give blood in Greenwich earlier in the week on that horribly cold and rainy day.

Was the blood drive only a few days ago? Feels like years. Time passes like it does on vacation, when every day seems to last longer, is more eventful, worth remembering. Now, the days feel longer, but eventful? Hmm. It will be interesting to look back and see what was memorable. And no, this isn’t vacation time, as any parent with school age kids will tell you.

Four people I know have tested positive, all of whom I’d consider healthy. Two are women in their late 30s/early 40s; one was practically asymptomatic while the other is quite sick. The other two, an active couple in their mid-60s, also reacted differently to the virus; she took quite ill while his symptoms were much milder.

Every time I hear a story, my throat gets sore and I develop a headache. Was that a low-grade fever on Sunday, or sunburn from working in the garden? I’ve decided to only worry if I have a fever and cannot smell or taste.

I am talking on the phone much, much more than in the past, with people near and far. Facetiming, ‘happy hour hangouts’ – all are silver linings to this crisis. Making these personal connections beyond the level of texting has been wonderful.

But back to Stop & Shop. Even though we qualify for the Early Bird Senior shopping, neither one of us wants to go that early. We’ve been sleeping longer, later, remembering our dreams more vividly.

Early in the pandemic, I’d wake up trying to pinpoint why it felt like the world was falling apart. And then I’d remember, um yes, it kinda is.

Empty parking spaces at the Main Avenue Stop & Shop. (Claire Schoen)

As we pulled into the parking lot, we passed Norwalk Public Schools’ Frank Harris Nutrition Center, and in the distance, I made out buses loaded up for their rounds to feed our school children. #NorwalkProud. #AnotherSilverLining.

Stop & Shop was neither crowded nor empty but it was eerily quiet. Many people were wearing masks and/or gloves, and everyone was keeping their distance. Some aisles were filled with boxes of items to be restocked, while others still looked like the hurricane must be due tomorrow.

While my husband, Gerry, shopped, I chatted with the assistant grocery manager. Other than toilet paper and cleaning supplies, he told me, flour, sugars, yeast and beans are the current hard-to-come-by items.

Funny, two or three days ago I thought it would be a great time to bake bread. Apparently, I’m not alone. Too bad I threw out the year-old yeast in Week #1 when I cleaned out the pantry for the first time in years.

A Stop & Shop worker cleans a display case. (Claire Schoen)

Are suppliers still delivering as they have in the past? He hedged on that question a bit but said yes, maybe not always on the same schedule as they used to. In the aisle behind us, he pointed to shelves newly stocked with pasta and tomato sauce, items that were a scarcity just a few days ago.

As Gerry finished shopping, I looked around. Suddenly I had an inexplicable urge to cry. It’s not that there wasn’t flour or yeast, or that the stupid robot had been following me around.

Standing there, watching people move about without interacting, I felt a bit guilty for having come. To the grocery store. The. Grocery. Store.

As I stood there, I realized how much our lives have changed, how thing will be different going forward. Like 9/11 and Sandy Hook, this crisis will change us. I’m just not sure how. There will certainly be some silver linings, but how long will we feel guilty for grocery shopping?

Thankfully, Gerry signaled me to stop daydreaming and come pack up the groceries. He was unaware of the don’t-bring-your-own-bag policy that Stop & Shop has enacted. (If you do bring your own, you must bag things yourself.) Buzzy, the cashier behind the newly installed Plexiglas, couldn’t have been nicer. We chatted a bit as we packed; he noted that everyone was being incredibly kind. “Only had one person yell at me in two weeks and that was about the toilet paper,” he said.

Ah, yes. The toilet paper. On the way home we stopped for gas (yes, hand sanitizer in the car after touching the gas pump.) I went into the minimart on a reconnaissance mission and bingo! I struck gold. With two rolls more of toilet paper for this non-hoarding household, we should be good – until our next outing at least.

Gold! (Claire Schoen)


12 responses to “Things are – and will be – different”

  1. John ONeill

    Hey — It’s time to reflect on how nice we really have it. Even as we deal with this crisis America is still the best country on the planet. I am saddened by the non-stop political partisanship. There is plenty of blame to go around, and some of our local legislators (You know who you are) can’t help but bring politics into the equation. CT legislators can blame Federal gov’t all they want. BUT, they should be honest about their own dirty laundry. Did any of our state reps stop Malloy/Barnes from stealing TWO BILLION DOLLARS from our hospitals over 8 year to pay for entitlements?? Did any on our elected officials concern themselves with redtape/bureaucracy of CDC over the past decade? The answer to both is NO. To Those who whine for political points daily — STOP Bitching and START acting like adults. We are getting sick and tired (unrelated to Corona) of “brochured” politicians getting in the way. To them I say: STEP UP OR STEP OUT…#WEareONE

  2. Mike

    Do you realize that your post is the same political partisanship that you are complaining about?

  3. Al Bore

    Will it be different, no the mayor has been working hard to bring overcrowding to Norwalk making the city dense with people and buildings. We see how we don’t have enough supplies and we are trying to stay away from each other yet for 6 years this administration crammed people, a mall, and apartments into every square inch. When we are done with this round of the virus, the mayor will continue to cram more people and more apartment buildings into Norwalk. Norwalk finally made the paper for being number one in the state but unfortunately it is for having the most confirmed cases of the virus. I hope in the future we can be number one for something good and I hope no-one else has to get sick or die from this awful virus in this state or anywhere else. Stay healthy and anyone who has this sickness I wish you a speedy recovery and back to 100% health. Mayor please rethink what you have already done and will probably continue to do cramming hundreds more people into Norwalk. Think and again I ask you to think when is enough enough. It is NOW. THINK!! Thank you to all the police,fire, and medical.

  4. John ONeill

    @Mike What the heck are you talking about? My post simply pointed out that those whining the most have skeleton’s in their own closet..Wouldn’t you agree?

  5. John ONeill

    @Mike I think Mayor Rilling has done a TREMENDOUS job under very difficult circumstances. I can’t say the same about other political mouthpieces.

  6. Tysen Canevari

    How will Blumenthal get his hair colored weekly now that the salons are closed

  7. Mike

    Would you not agree that statements such as “Did any of our state reps stop Malloy/Barnes from stealing TWO BILLION DOLLARS from our hospitals over 8 year to pay for entitlements?? Did any on our elected officials concern themselves with redtape/bureaucracy of CDC over the past decade?” is playing political partisanship? I would say so. This is not the time. I am just simply pointing it out.

  8. John ONeill

    As Lou Holtz once said l: It’s not what you’re saying, it’s what they’re hearing..Mike doesn’t seem to be hearing me…That’s ok. It’s time to move on. #WEareONE..

  9. Larry

    Claire- Thanks very much for sharing your beautifully written- and affecting – observations. I hope that you and Gerry stay well as this all continues to unfold.

    P.S. Does my Dad’s ’96 Toyota Camry still have a home in your driveway?

  10. Karen

    Thanks for sharing Claire! #Pro Norwalk 4 life!

  11. Claire Schoen

    Wow, maybe some things aren’t so different — you guys can turn anything into a political discussion! This was meant to be simply a reflection on how we are feeling – can we all just ease up a little? 🙂
    @Larry – great to hear from you — sadly, we had to retire the old girl – one year before it would have become eligible for Classic plates — what a great car!

  12. Concerned Taxpayer

    @ Al Bore
    My thoughts exactly, I wonder how this got here and spread so fast. Build, build, build.. The city has pushed beyond where it needed to go, and here we are.

    The daily tax bill for the Mall is pretty steep, with no revenue now, the bleak outlook is bleaker..

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