Today, I ventured out into the wilds of rural Italy.
Me, masked and gloved and terrified
We are running out of pellets for our stufa (stove), and it’s been cold the past few weeks, so a very necessary item as there is no heating on the piano prima (2nd floor) of our grand old house in Italy (insert shivers here).
So, to eliminate the necessity of any additional trips for the next couple weeks, I made 3 stops. To the bank, for cash (we never know when a stores system might go offline, and cash will be the only payment option), to the ferramenta (hardware store) for the pellets and a great big bottle of disinfectant, and lastly to the supermercato (grocery store).
I thought the supermercato be a good idea, as it’s on the way home, it’s 4x bigger than the tiny shops in our village, and the selection of vegetables is much more extensive. As a vegetarian, this whole period has been a little difficult for me, as I cannot make many of the dishes I love without the right ingredients. I’ve been unable to get tofu, or oyster mushrooms, or a dozen other items. I've been getting my protein from chicken & fish, which is tolerable, but I haven't been too happy about it.
After all I thought, what could go wrong?
I was reassured to see the staff were thoroughly garbed in protective face shields and masks, all the produce was handled with mono-use gloves (over the gloves everyone were already wearing), and they were limiting the number of people in the store at any one time. Every customer was also required to be masked and gloved, and maintain as much distance as possible from every other person.
With incredible politeness, despite the difficulty and challenge of negotiating the narrow aisles, the gloves and masks and the rush of trying to finish so that others could have their turn to shop, the Italians manoeuvred around each other with remarkable aplomb.
Except that one guy.
That guy absolutely infuriated me. I am still angry, as I type this. He obviously was some sort of manager, or perhaps he was a distributor representative, or some other person not working directly for this store. He was not wearing the uniform, but a jersey for another company that I did not recognise.
And he sailed around that store, coming close to me multiple times, no matter how hard I tried to get out of his way. He did not maintain a considerate distance, but more appalling, he was not masked, and he was not gloved, and he seemed irritated by the entire thing. Every time I tried to pull away so he could pass me, he gave me a look like “oh please, this distance thing is ridiculous”.
This person (I'd like to use more colorful language) went back and forth on the aisles, where store employees were “arranging” the stock to look nice. Lining up jars of beans, pulling them to the front of the shelves, and he was obviously berating the employees to get it right. They did not look happy. Every one of them was wearing mask and face shield and gloves - but not him.
Is not this moment difficult enough, I thought, without worrying so much about fronting the product properly? Who is this man, who could be sick with the virus, wandering around without any protective gear - touching things - and thinking he’s immune to both the virus and the government mandated protective measures?
This store was doing everything mandated by law - with attention and care to insure we all can get the food we need safely. And this ONE man, was undoing all their work. If he is sick, he will have transmitted the virus to who knows how many people. Handing out cans of beans crawling with what could be death for someones nonna.
And at its heart, this is our problem. No matter how many of us go to every possible length to prevent the spread of the virus, there will always be that ONE person who thinks it’s all silly, and can’t be bothered. Enough of those types of people, and sooner or later there will be someone who dies as a result.
I spent almost an hour spraying down every single item I purchased from that store with disinfectant. I spent even more time spraying down every single thing I touched, then stripped off and washed my clothes, scrubbed my skin and hands until my fingers felt raw, and I’m still terrified that I brought home the virus that could kill my husband.
I cannot imaging doing this day after day for healthcare workers, I cannot imagine their frustration with that ONE person who plays god with us all.
Our improvised sanitising station in our messy garage - where all things that have been "Outside the House" must be sprayed down before going "Inside The House".