The Quarantine Chronicles: Getting “carded” at the Local Grocery Store

I have great friends. I’ve said that before, but I feel during such stressful, uncertain times, it bears repeating.

I have great friends.

Case in point: Sunday night, I received some high level intelligence from a friend about toilet paper. My informant gave me the time and place where the delivery of a couple of truckloads of TP would go down. The supply would arrive the night before, and shelves would be stocked in preparation for the first shoppers on Monday morning–the senior citizen hour (and apparently, the new, politically correct phrase is “silver citizens” or just “silvers”).

My secret connection also said that the guy who tipped her off assured her that she and her husband qualified for the “silver hour of shopping.” If they qualified, I knew I did as well, since we are all silver together.

I got up at my usual time, actually applied a little bit of makeup, and attempted to fix my hair, which was definitely showing the silver that qualified me for this special time to grab essential supplies.

When I arrived at the store, there were already people lined up. I also spotted a delivery person who was waiting to enter. I opted to park next to the other entrance, and there I would wait until the golden, I mean, silver hour of 8:00.

A pickup truck pulled up next to me, and a young man got out. I decided I also should get out to ensure my place in line. I didn’t know if this would be like a version of “Supermarket Sweep,” where contestants raced through the store piling things in their cart, but I was prepared as I was donned in my workout pants and sneakers (before you gasp, I was also wearing a t-shirt, and jacket, but that info is actually inconsequential to my ability to race through the store at breakneck speed).

When I walked up to the door to wait, I noticed the young man who got out of the truck happened to be a former student of mine. I knew he wasn’t close to being a member of Team Silver, but I didn’t say anything. The last thing I wanted was to be a “Debbie Downer,” and get all legalistic, while shooting down his hopes of scoring toilet paper and eggs. Poor, young soul.

We visited for a minute about the craziness of the times, and finally one of the store managers came to let us in. Instead of opening the door and welcoming us, he made a statement that was also a question, “You do know the first hour is for seniors only?”

For the first time in my life, I was eager to boast about my age. I am a senior, hear me roar! This was the golden ticket that would allow me to finally get my hands on a package of toilet paper. A 12 pack, at that.

As the manager (a.k.a. bouncer) looked us over, I exclaimed, “I’m a senior. I’m fifty-seven.” I actually told a slight fib. I’ll be fifty-seven in a couple of weeks, but my need for toilet paper clouded my judgment and overshadowed the accuracy of my information.

With a stone-cold expression that clearly stated he wasn’t playing, the manager said, “The age for entry is sixty.”

And then it happened. It was 1982 all over again, and I was being denied entrance into the “Roxy” in College Station. I was eighteen, but during my freshman year in college, the legal age for entrance into clubs and/or drinking had been moved to nineteen.

As embarrassing and humiliating as that was, today’s rejection was even greater. And somehow I didn’t think that batting my eyelashes or showing some cleavage would work. Especially since I wasn’t even wearing mascara, and the A&M t-shirt I had on was anything BUT cleavage-worthy. I knew if I was desperate enough to try to flash this unsuspecting-simply-doing-his-job manager, I would end up being incarcerated, charged with disturbing the peace, and all kinds of other crimes against fashion. Before I did anything that might end with me being on the wrong arm of the law, I reminded myself that orange definitely isn’t my color.

As I pushed all these insane thoughts out of my mind, I realized it’s 2020, and I’m not trying to get into a night club, for the love of all that’s holy–I just want a pack of Charmin! Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand and support stores having a time for “silvers” to shop. I just thought that being eligible for AARP and discounts on coffee and other sundry goods qualified me for this perk.

Being denied entrance during Silver Hour came with a plethora of emotions: I was disappointed, a little bit embarrassed, and a tiny bit proud that the manager looked at me and determined that I was too young to “go clubbin’.” But more than any other feeling I had, I was sad. I felt a sense of desperation. I felt anxious, and uncertain. My days were no longer predictable, and ordinary, everyday items, were no longer within my grasp.

And if I felt this way, think about all the other people who are struggling a thousand times more than this fifty-seven-year-old poser. This realization and the fact that I was being thoughtless and selfish was far worse than any of the other emotions I was feeling. And for that, I was ashamed.

In my wildest imagination, I never dreamed I would be carded at the grocery store. I never dreamed that schools would be canceled, retail stores would be closed, hospitals would be overrun with sickness, and overwhelmed with all the obstacles that come with trying to treat the huge numbers of those in need. I never dreamed people would be asked to stay at home, that “quarantine” and “social distancing” would be household words. That toilet paper would be in short supply.

I never imagined having to use ZOOM to interact with my family.  We did that last weekend, and will continue to set up appointments so we can visit, and catch up on each others’ lives. While introducing my mom to this futuristic, Jetsons-like activity, she remarked, “I remember as a little girl, we imagined what it might be like to get to see people when you talked to them on the phone. And now we can do that.”

In 2020, we have the ability/capability to do so many things we never thought would be possible. Instant access to people, movies, music, information, online shopping, smart phones, smart TVs, smart cars, drones, robots, and Alexa. During this time of extra, and excess, it’s difficult to accept that we can’t find some of the things we need for our basic existence: toilet paper, eggs, paper towels, ground beef, diapers, baby wipes, milk, hand sanitizer.

Not having these things, or the fear of running out of them, has caused me to look at life in a completely different way. In my house, and with my people, I know we have started enjoying a more simple life. We are less wasteful. We spend our free-time and resources in a more meaningful, intentional way. We put together puzzles, organize the clutter, exercise more, eat less. We have daily check-ins with family, ask about their health, and their needs. We care more, say more, do more.

As we continue to chase normal, I’m beginning to hope that some of the things from our days of yore will become a part of this new order. I hope we go back to the way things used to be. I hope we read more, and think more. I hope we put our phones down, and embrace the simplicity of watching a cat stare out the window, meowing at a bird, and better yet, I hope we hear that bird singing. I hope we show our appreciation more, and our disappointment less.

As a rejected member of the “Silver Club,” the best advice I can give is to challenge you to take advantage of this time. Stop and look and listen, and figure out what it is that you’re supposed to do with the extra minutes, hours, days, and weeks we’ve been given. Do the things that you’ve been putting off. Do the things which set your soul on fire. Reflect on things you can change and improve, and then put those things in action. Refuel, re-energize, reconnect.

And most of all, do the things that will help this virus go away. Please stay home, and be a part of the solution.

For everything there is a season, and for every season, there is a reason. Find your reason, find your purpose and then do great things.

As for me, I’ll drink my coffee early in the morning. I’ll say my prayers, and welcome each new day. I’ll embrace the time with my husband, and my dog and cats. I’ll treasure the conversations with my mom and my sons and daughter-in-law. I’ll write my blog, and record my podcast, and maybe begin writing my next book. I’ll count the days until my grandson arrives. And I’ll thank my Heavenly Father for this gift I’ve been given. This gift of Time.

And in the months, and days, and years to come, when I think back to the time of social distancing, and my desperate attempt to find an elusive package of toilet paper, I’ll laugh, and smile, and relish the fact that I was carded at the local grocery store and deemed too young to purchase a 12 pack…


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