Wrong Way on Aisle 5
Grocery stores freak me out.
I need a Personal Space Invasion, Proximity Violation Containment, Radar System. (PSI-PVC-RS!).
“Danger! Danger! Will Robinson.” Wrong way customers on Aisle 5. Blocked exit, Aisle 7. Danger! Danger! No face mask in produce!
Too much to remember! Don’t get close to anyone. Don’t touch my face. Don’t touch anything! Is my mask covering my nose? Did I wipe the cart handle clean? AARRG! My phone doesn’t recognize me in a face mask. My grocery list is on my phone! DON’T TOUCH THE PHONE! Am I going the wrong way down the aisle? Why are those people coming toward me? Help, I’m trapped in the meat department—and I’m a vegetarian!
I have to laugh. But it still freaks me out. (Where’s my hand sanitizer?)
Even in quarantine, grocery shopping is something we all have to do, and the grocery store has, in an unexpected way, become a symbol for coping with lockdown. We all have to eat.
We all have to wipe our ass, too! Though I will never understand why the amount of toilet paper needed to accomplish that ordinary task suddenly multiplied the moment the virus appeared. Who knew toilet paper panic was a real thing? I suspect there are vast stores of toilet paper packed into every available garage, closet, and attic around the world.
Yes, laughter helps for a moment. For a moment. Then we remember. This is real life.
And our real life is real messed up.
Coronavirus didn’t create the political divide in America, but it exposed the true depth of its destructive power on the health and well-being of our nation. The politicization of the pandemic has worsened its effect on us at every stage of its relentless march through the population.
Decisions about health and safety should never have to be made along political lines, and yet we see that happening in communities across the country. The piecemeal, red/blue, state-by-state approach to coping with COVID-19 creates confusion, conflict, and the perpetual spread of misleading and false information.
In a more normal time—if there is any such thing as normal anymore—a crisis of this magnitude is exactly the moment when we would unite as a nation to fight a threat that harms us all.
Most Americans struggle to cope with the way COVID-19 is impacting their lives but that experience can vary widely from person to person, depending on political beliefs, economics, technology, and media sources.
For some, the pandemic is a vast and lonely isolation. For families, a never-ending schedule of work, school, play, and household chores. For many, the loss of a steady paycheck adds financial panic to every sunrise. In others, the lockdown sows seeds of rebellion. In minorities and people of color, the long history of racism and discrimination in our nation has created communities at higher risk of complications from the virus. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other essential workers are exhausted, and daily face risk of exposure to the virus. Small business owners face bankruptcy.
With all our varied perspectives, finding the thread to unite us as a nation is not an easy task, but when we see life through the eyes of others, our understanding of one another is changed.
That concept was always part of the bedrock philosophy of CAMP Rehoboth, and one of the reasons we were so adamant about keeping the organization downtown and in a visible location. In the act of living out in the open and sharing our lives with neighbors and community, perspectives changed—on all sides—and so did hearts.
In my former role as President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, I often developed workshops. One of them was about perspective. To prepare for it, I took three photographs. Photo 1 was a closeup of the bark on a single tree. Photo 2 zoomed out to show the grove of trees. Photo 3 was the entire forest.
When perspective changes, so too does our understanding of what we are seeing and our place in it. Too close, we see only details. Too far away, only the “big picture” is visible. Life happens somewhere in between.
Telling our stories to one another is a key part of expanding our understanding of the human experience.
As longtime owners of the popular Dos Locos Restaurant, and now owners of Diego’s Nightclub, Joe Zuber and Darryl Ciarlante are well known throughout the local Rehoboth Beach community. When Darryl became gravely ill with COVID-19, the virus got personal for all of us. Though not allowed in the hospital, Joe keep the community up to date on Facebook throughout all the terrifying weeks Darryl was in critical condition and breathing only with the help of a ventilator at Beebe Healthcare.
The news from the hospital was dire; the death toll climbing across the nation. And yet, Joe’s positive spirit was inspiring. After weeks, Darryl began to improve, and has now moved on to rehab.
In sharing their story with us, Joe entrusted his heart to us as a community, and the collective, virtual hug that surrounded the two of them—and continues to do so—allowed us to step back from our own problems and keep them in proper perspective.
As CAMP Rehoboth—all of us, for that matter—plan for a future in the wake of COVID-19, perspective remains crucial to decision making. Technology is changing, work patterns are changing, large gatherings have vanished, and budgets face serious shortfalls.
More than ever, we need wise leaders who inspire us to put aside our differences—no, not put aside, understand our differences—and celebrate our diverse perspectives and experiences. As a nation we will eventually survive the pandemic. We may find it harder to survive the division ripping the soul of our country to pieces.
“Danger! Danger! Will Robinson. Wrong way on aisle 5.
(Where’s my hand sanitizer?)
Murray Archibald is an artist and CAMP Rehoboth co-founder. Email Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Self Portrait in Isolation, by Murray Archibald