Everyone needs to make their own decision about how much they will quarantine and in our case we have definitely been more isolated than many. Lee has been concerned about getting COVID because he was a long time smoker and has a heart condition, and in order to support that I rarely left the compound. Like most people though it has left me feeling incredibly restless, made all the more difficult by the fact that personally I don’t worry that much about getting sick. I think its extremely important to protect other people though, but as they opened up Texas it became harder and harder to sit at home.
The reality is that in this lifestyle what one of us does has a significant impact on the other. There is no space to social distance from each, and unlike when we had a house we can’t sleep in separate beds or take over separate areas of the house. My choices are his choices and vice versa and that has been brought home during this crisis. For example, we had a plan for Lee to work in South Dakota this summer, but after learning the specifics of the safety measures they were willing to take and the fact that Lee would come into contact with hundreds of people a day, he ultimately decided not to go. I completely understand that decision, but obviously it also impacts me as we will be staying in Texas through the summer. It gets hot down here, and for folks that like to follow the weather I think we will have some challenges. Don’t get me wrong, we are both incredibly grateful to have a place to stay, but we were also looking forward to a summer in the badlands, where the elevation keeps in cooler. Plus we were looking forward to a summer of exploring the region and just generally “getting back to normal”.
Before he made his decision we had a somewhat heated conversation about what this looks like over the next several months. Essentially I have felt it was important to stay at home to avoid putting others at risk, but if Texas was going to throw themselves wide open I wasn’t willing to stay on strict lockdown for the next several months. Unfortunately that puts him at risk, and we were having trouble finding common ground. Ultimately Lee agreed that if Texas had 14 consecutive days of declining new cases he would be OK with higher risk activities (ie: haircut, etc). In the interim he has been softer about me taking short trips out as long as I am masked, gloved, and try to maintain social distancing.
I have spent the last few days going to several places and it has been such a mixed bag of experiences I wanted to share them with you. Keep in mind we are in Texas where the laws are relatively loose but this may show you what things look like when those rules are loosened. Here is a summation of those experiences in no particular order.
- Home Depot – I intentionally went at 10:30 am on a Friday hoping that I would beat the crowds, but the parking lot was mostly full. I couldn’t enter through the garden center but instead walked down to a tent and then in the front doors where an employee was keeping track of the number of people. My main issue with that approach was the employee was not wearing a mask, and I had trouble keeping 6 feet from people when I went in the door. I made an immediate left and went into the garden center and picked my tomato plants, two pots and soil. All of the elderly people I saw wore masks and most of the people my age but none of the employees were masked at all. This particularly bothered me when I came to checkout. Although there were no lines painted we all naturally fell into a six foot distance pattern, but unmasked people kept cutting through the line. At least 4 different people did this in the short time I was standing there which kind of defeated the purpose. The check out person didn’t have a mask either and did not stay behind the plastic. Mixed experience but I am happy with the tomato plants I bought.
2. Spring Creek Gardens – Unfortunately Home depot didn’t have grape tomato plans so on Mothers Day Cori and I ran up to a local nursery. It was a very nice place and had beautiful landscape plants but unfortunately hardly any good vegetable plants. I did get two scrawny grape tomatoes plants but couldn’t find any inexpensive pots. Worse, only one person there had a mask on. Yes it was mostly outside, but people were close to each other and social distancing wasn’t always possible. Plus there were kids because there was a petting zoo which worried me more. We left as quick as we could and again the employees had no masks or gloves.
3. Dollar General – I didn’t think I could handle Home Depot on a Sunday so we stopped at Dollar General to see if they had pots. Not only did they have a nice selection but about half the people were masked, the aisles were relatively clear, the checkout line had spacing lines for people to stand, and the cashier had a mask and Plexiglas. I was thrilled to see they were being safe and will definitely be going back!
4. Whataburger – I was hungry after stopping at Home Depot and went through the drive-thru for a sandwich. I was pleased to see everyone had a mask and gloves and they have not opened their dining room yet despite being allowed for 25% capacity. I felt completely comfortable and the food was great!
5. Pizza Hut – In complete contrast on another visit I saw that they were doing curbside drop off for Pizza hut and decided to give that a try. I haven’t been to Pizza Hut since this entire thing got started and when I tried to social distance they looked at me like I was crazy. Since they now have curbside drop off I decided to give it a try. I was only there for a minute or so when the door opened and the same employee from last time walked to my vehicle. He was holding my pizza box which now has a sealed tag on it, but he had no mask or gloves. He walked right up to the driver side window and I quickly put my mask on. He was less than two feet from me and handed me the box and then asked me if I wanted to tip the cook. I stated I did not and left fuming. That was twice in a row I had a bad experience and I would not eat that pizza until I could recook it. I also filled out a COVID specific online survey about the experience and was scathing in my scores. I rarely do that, but I like Pizza Hut and hate that I don’t feel comfortable eating from there because they are not following their own policies.
6. City of Gruene – Another day Lee and I ran over to New Braunfels to run a couple of errands and on the way we passed through the tourist town of Gruene. We were both really surprised to see that the town was packed with tourists and only one person had a mask. All the small boutique shops were open and there was absolutely no social distancing going on. We didn’t even get out of the car.
7. Sea Island – When we got to New Braunfels we stopped for pickup of Sea Island. I absolutely adore their shrimp and although it is a long drive I have wanted it for a couple of months. I was surprised that their parking lot was very full but we did managed to snag one of the spots that said for pickup. I had ordered on their app, and wasn’t sure how to tell them I was there so I asked an employee but he said to go inside to get my carryout. That defeated the purpose so I called the number I saw on the sign and they did bring the order out right away. The employees were masked and I did not need to go inside, but I didn’t feel great about how full the parking lot was. I thought restaurants were on 25% capacity but it definitely seemed like there were more people than that.
8. Auto Zone – Lastly we went to Auto Zone for Lee to pick up a car part. He masked up and went inside and came out very angry. Not one person in the store was masked and the cashier gave him attitude when Lee kept backing away because the employee was standing too close. The person handled his purchase and receipt without gloves and the credit card terminal wasn’t clean at all. Lee didn’t see any lines at all for social distancing in line. He was so upset that when he came home he wrote an email to the company. It wasn’t just the complete lack of measures that bothered him but the lack of respect for his safety, and the fact that their website has lots of specific things they are “doing” but they’re not actually doing any of those things. As he stated in the email he can order every product they have online from Amazon, and next time that is exactly what he will do.
So it was a mixed bag of experiences over a three day period. I was really happy in all those cases where companies were attempting to keep people safe and really angry when they weren’t. The anger isn’t so much for myself but for those people who are stuck in their homes because folks won’t follow some simple recommendations. I want to get out and spend a little money like anyone else but I am going to have to be very choosy about what places allow me to do that. I say allow because they are making a choice and I get to make mine. And for those of you who may think I am making some sort of political statement, please keep in mind that the major principle of capitalism is I get to choose where to spend my money. 🙂
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