"Paul, please go to aisle three for customer assistance. There's a lady by the icing sugar."
Shopping on the world of COVID-19 resembles some bizarre chess game. You move through aisles and around stalls, attempting to remain at a safe distance from the other players. Where necessary, you pass without breathing. Someone blocks the path to the broccoli. Do you wait, or negotiate around the organic produce table and hope you can make it before the elderly woman heading for the fish counter gets too close? It has brought out some interesting characters, ordinary folks transformed into Coronavisions of alternate identities.
Here are a few I encountered while making a morning run for the week's groceries and some alcoholic beverages:
Countess Dracula: she moves about without any sort of mask, but she feels she requires one whenever anyone approaches. To this end, she pulls her long black scarf across her face in a manner that recalls Bela Lugosi, and sweeps by.
The Immunized Lord of the Sith: a number of people wear masks, but this menacing figure, with his black leather jacket and sophisticated respirator device really stood apart from the crowd. I fully expected him to ignite his lightsaber and inform the stock-boy that, no, he was his father.
The Welder: With full face-shield, the welder walks in assurance that no stray spittle shall ever spread pestilence to their body.
Weed Granny: the grey-haired woman who saw the marijuana delivery car park in the lot and wondered aloud if they were going to come into the store to pass out free samples. I'm sure that wouldn't be legal. Free samples are a pandemic era health hazard. Sometimes the Weed Courier is just picking up groceries.
The Ski Pro: Although he had no mask upon his face, he had ski goggles over his eyes. I suppose that affords some sort of protection. Perhaps he lost the nose-and-mouth covering during the final slalom.
Mr. Grim: with the skull-rictus covering over his own mouth, he makes a frightful sight as he stalks the cold breakfast cereals and instant soup mixes. Perhaps he'll upgrade and go classic next week, with a full Plague Doctor outfit. I find myself wondering now if he just chose the covering for the times, or if he had the mask in store, at ready for just this occasion.
Lady Content Warning: the clerk at the LCBO door who goes through every single guideline as you enter-- "...and we prefer credit or debit, but we will take cash if that's all you have"-- and ends, at long last, with strong encouragement (not that she means to be rude) to shop quickly so as to make way for others. I would be midway through my run if she had just let me pass.
The Lord of Merriment: upon seeing just how far the spaced-out line-up to the liquor store stretched, along the wall and around the corner and, finally, into the sketchy realm behind the plaza where cars rarely go and weeds grow through cracks in the pavement, he laughed gleefully and then made his way to the very back. Really, does he need to spend any more time at home? Maybe he'll find a new friend during conversation across a safe distance. Dig that fresh outdoor air. Invigorating, isn't it?
Vera Lynn is alive at 103 and participating in a duet to raise money for health care in England. Whether she will actually sing, or they will repurpose an old recording (as was done on the album released for her 100th birthday), is something I do not know. But she survived the 1918 Flu Pandemic, sang comfort during World War II, and sounds perfectly lucid in 2020. Dismiss her signature song as cheese if you like, but it's no less true for most of us: we will meet again, our pandemic identities largely put to rest, some sunny day.
UPDATE: Dame Vera Lynn passed away June 18, 2020, at the age of 103. Rest in Peace.