In spite of today’s crazy regulations that require us to anti-socially distance, and avoid contact with each other, I do indeed bend the rules to visit my neighbour. I help her out with her temporary predicament due to a foot injury: she cannot go downstairs to do her laundry, and she cannot go out to shop. She is also limited if she needs to stand for extended periods of time – as in a shower.
Rather than resorting to having baths, my friend realized that a portable stool would make the task of showering and washing her long hair so much easier, and I was happy to find a stool for her. I also agreed to look for a new shower-curtain liner as well. No big deal, right?
Well, little did we imagine!!
When I arrived at one of my local pharmacies, I found the stool almost right away and it was perfect. Not knowing the layout of the store, I needed the assistance of a staff member to find the shower curtain liner. What she showed me was also perfect. So I made my way to the cash.
That was when the “fun” began.
I cannot really do my adventure justice here, but I will try by recreating the conversation I had with the cashier when I put my items on the counter.
Cashier: Oh! Um, I’m sorry, but, ahh, … I can’t sell you this shower curtain.
Me: Oh, really? I don’t understand.
Cashier: But you can buy the shower stool. No problem.
Cashier: Well, actually if you can pay with a credit card, we can manage for you to buy both.
Me: What? I don’t understand.
Cahsier: Well, it’s because the shower curtain is non-essential.
Me: Really? How could you know that? And how could I possibly know that?
Cashier: Well, we know which items are in the non-essential category and these are the rules we have to enforce, so unless you pay with your credit card, you cannot buy the shower curtain.
Me: Huh? Unless I pay with my credit card? I don’t understand; what possible difference does that make? I can buy an item that I’m not allowed to buy so long as I don’t pay for it with cash? Is that right?
Cashier: Yes, that’s right. So can you pay with a credit card?
Me: No problem; I always pay with my credit card.
Cashier: Okay, great, so I need to write down your credit card details and your phone number – then we will be able to proceed with the purchase.
Me: Well, why not just ring it up?
Cashier: We cannot do that.
Me: Okay, fine.
Stupefied, I provide the information which she writes down on a scrap of paper, and she returns my card to me.
Cashier: Okay, great, now we can do this transaction since I have your info here… but you have to leave your items here and go over there and wait until I ring it up.
At this point, further stupefied, I’m wondering, “Does this have something to do with the danger of Covid?”
I attempt to leave with the essential shower stool, but I am stopped.
Cashier: No, you must leave both items here.
I go away from the cash and stand near the exit, wondering what kind of La-La Land I’m living in.
Cashier: No, you cannot stay there either. You must go out the door. Then I will be able to complete the transaction and give you your items.
So I button up my coat, put on my gloves and go out the door. She, in turn, performs the mysterious theatrical scene at her station, disappears out of site for a couple of minutes and then finds me outside the door to deliver my bag of goodies: One essential and one non-essential item.
Mission accomplished! Done.
Yes, I was stupefied! How does any of this make sense? What can all of this possibly have to do with saving lives? Mine or anyone else’s?
Well, the long and short of this charade is that if the store can go through the correct motions, and have me jump through the correct hoops, (holding my mouth the right way!) we can all pretend that my purchase was an online (essential?) order.
But why the theatrics?
Perhaps the whole scenario was tracked and the tracking machine had to perceive appropriate distancing between the location of the processing, and my credit card. And maybe there had to be a measurable and appropriate passage of time between my card being processed and the items going out the door?
If not, then the antics of the cashier were all for her conscience, or just to obey the rules for the sake of obeying the rules.
If we are all buying into this kind of theatre without making a fuss or asking questions, we are definitely doomed!
There must be a million stories like this – if only we could collect and share them all! With never-ending continued lockdowns, we may very well need some reading entertainment.