Shopping: A rant.

I work with people living with addictions and mental health issues. Sometimes they cannot manage their behaviours because of this, and I do my best to diffuse the situation to work with them to find solutions. It’s tough, especially right now.

I’m on planned ‘staycation’ this week (I was supposed to be visiting Korea) and had to do a grocery shop. I went for 10am, to allow those in need to go first as requested. 3/4s of the people in the store were at the minimum courteous, responding to ‘excuse me’, ‘so sorry’, etc. The last 1/4 could do with full psychiatric work up before being allowed in public.

It’s like they haven’t seen the news of what’s going on, freaking out on staff and other shoppers about barren shelves and high prices. Some I’m sure were just desperate for conversation. Some a-holes had procreated, brought their brats and were letting them run free and touch everything with hands in their mouths, whilst parents (men and women) either were on a work or personal call in the middle of the aisle. One dude had the audacity to berate someone for not social distancing from his free range brats, and his cart was blocking the aisle while he was on the phone laughing with a buddy. If you’ve been to Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws, they have a great racially diverse staff, and being right in the gay village, lots of LGBT+ staff too. It’s a point of pride. But I saw a couple of Karens and Beckys and Chads (sorry, to my friend Chad!) were working up to ‘I want to speak to a manager’. At 10am. OMG. The poor staff.

Your. Privilege. Is. Showing. You. Nasty. Racist. Homophobic. Spoiled. Non-Essential. Cretins.

You are not the end all and the be all. You’ve missed the “We’re all in this together” understanding that the bulk of Canadians are getting. If this is what staff are dealing with daily, the store needs to start handing out lifetime bans.

I got pretty close to getting what I needed, but had to give up, as the store was filling up, as was my panic meter. Got through self-checkout, having brought my own sanitizer. Then struggled back through people, as there was only one entrance/exit open, to manage the flow.

The door was being blocked by a privileged Becky throwing a full tantrum at the doorway, as the store was at capacity, and she was technically first in line, except she was already out and had forgotten one thing, and was arguing with the guy at the door that he could watch her bags on the street while she ran in to grab it. I kid you not. I said excuse me three times, until she went ‘just a minute’, and then I just moved through, forcing her back.
When I go out in public in general, I am not being employed to be the human service worker that I am. I am not there to manage your emotions, outside of socially accepted conventions: be polite i.e. excuse me, please, thank you, sorry – all things your parents/guardians should’ve taught you.
There were good parents, who were being mindful of their kids, and people who were just putting things back due to cost (not just handling for the sake of handling.) I heard quiet discussions of ‘we will sort out the bills later’, and my heart broke. I accept I am privileged on many levels, one of which currently is having a full-time job with benefits, and know some of my friends are struggling at the moment. I was fortunate as well that I got what I got for only $48 and change, as I had saved up $220 in points. I’ll be making another donation to the local food bank shortly.

I got home on auto-pilot, and then safe behind a locked door again, let the panic attack come to get it over with – full sweats, tears, choking, chest pain and gasping for air. Scared littlest puppy, as she has mercifully never seen me this way. Zylly, my trooper, just calmly came and pressed against me, and is still pressed against me as I write this. I have seriously never had a panic attack this bad in at least 14-15 years, when I was off work, after getting attacked on the job.

My clients for the most part admit where they messed up, and either apologize for their actions, or accept the situation and move on. You people I saw today, you privileged people who can’t see your privilege, you are not the pillars of society that you think you are, when you cannot treat overworked grocery store staff with the basic respect for the absolute stress that they are working under at the moment.

I don’t even want to imagine the store later today when there will be more people trickling in: those who are currently working, in over-stressed positions of their own, who may have fraying nerves after dealing with similar idiots all day.

For the love of humanity, show some basic curtesy right now, or stay home.

The Perfect Skate (a true story)

Stretching along the back boundary of the family farm was the bush, a woodlot of mixed trees and wildlife. Widthwise, it wasn’t a long distance until you hit the highway, but lengthwise, one could imagine being in a forest.

It had been an unseasonably mild winter with more rain than snow, though still enough to make getting around difficult on foot. Saturday, my father mentioned over dinner that when he had gone back there, things were frozen flatly, the trees keeping the worst of the snow out.

The next afternoon I slipped out of the house after lunch with my brother’s old hockey skates. While I did love to skate, it only happened perhaps once a year with school, and my hand-me-down leather skates were not much in the way of support, either for my ankles or self-esteem.

I followed the path of the tractor tires through the field, alert for fence posts jutting out. The sun shone brightly blinding off ice crusted snowy fields. At last I arrived to the spot where my father had been.

I had hoped for a small area that I could just skate around a bit. What I had not imagined that within the cool silence of boughs heavy with snow that the entire bush was frozen over, it’s surface as pristine as any zamboni cleaned rink. Some areas closer to the trees were white and brittle, a thin veneer hiding hollows beneath, but the other parts were dark and solid. Even should I break through, the deepest would be to my knee (the logic of youth not accounting for the need to slog back to the house in the cold).

The only sounds in the bush that day were the echo of my skates, and the occasional chirping of disturbed sparrows and squawking jays. Staying to the centre of the lengthwise path, I could imagine countless stories of Snow Witch queens, and fairy tale forests. I glided from spot to spot, the occasional push of a skate enough to carry me slowly through the trees, where only a few sparkling flakes floated freely around me, like being in a snow globe.

I carried a stick, to wield against imaginary foes (as well as to test any suspicious spots that might break beneath me), and my skates and imagination carried me through the afternoon down and up the length of the land until at last I had to leave my icy kingdom and return home.

It never froze over quite like that again. Even by the next weekend the forest floor was drifted over, impassable by skates. Sometimes in winter my warmest memory is that cold day, silence sliced by booted blade against ice, a moment of joy gliding over the past.