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‘Good morning, shoppers’ sounds like ‘Welcome to the war zone’

By JOHN KIENER

Associate Editor

[email protected]

 “Good Morning, Shoppers” said the grocery store employee who opened the door for Food City’s “elderly shopping” hour Thursday. While the words did not echo like Robin Williams’ radio broadcast in the movie “Good Morning, Vietnam,” the 7 a.m. hour opening gave me the feeling I was in the COVID-19 war zone.

When I arrived in the dark and rainy morning at 6:50 a.m., there were a dozen vehicles in the parking lot of the store. By 6:55 a.m. about 10 of us had gathered at the front door. We were all elderly, some wearing face masks. Several shoppers had cloth bags in which to place their groceries. One individual needed the aid of a sit-down, motorized shopping cart.

As I stood waiting for the store door to open, it dawned on me that the last time I stood in front of a business establishment waiting for it to open was on a Thanksgiving Black Friday some 10 years ago.  Once inside the door, the group heard a second announcement.

 “We have toilet paper” another store employee said. With that announcement, nearly half of us headed to the aisle where the paper products were located. There I found a sign limiting the number of packages of toilet paper rolls that could be purchased to two.

I looked and found the last two packages of the kind of “Mega” toilet paper rolls we purchase at our house and placed them in my shopping cart. Finding paper towels was easier. Next stop was the meat counter in search of unfrozen, packaged chicken.

The Deputy Clerks in Sessions Court told me on Wednesday while I was holding court as a substitute judge that they were having difficulty finding fresh chicken. They were right; there was no chicken available during the time I was in the store.

Holding court had been a unique experience. The front of the George P. Jaynes Justice Center was barricaded as if a construction zone. The Tennessee Supreme Court ordered the closing of court proceedings with only a few exceptions in all municipal, county and state courts until the end of the month. People who arrived at the Justice Center’s front door were given new court dates. I spent the day along with Judge Don Arnold arraigning prisoners in jail and releasing a number of them on their own recognizance (OR bonds).

At the Food City meat counter I did manage to purchase a roast and two pounds of hamburger meat. There was a 10-pound limit to meat purchases. The store did not have hand sanitizer or a number of other cleaning products. Other than the limitations mentioned, my shopping list was nearly complete after I had gone up-and-down the rest of the store’s aisles. I left the building shortly after 8 a.m. as a number of customers were entering the store.

My second stop was at Ingles where there were nearly three dozen vehicles in the lot. Looking for only a few items, I found frozen shrimp and fresh chicken breasts. I purchased two packages of each item.

It was while selecting the chicken that I witnessed the only time I felt a customer was purchasing an excessive amount of one item. A couple was loading packages of chicken to nearly the top of their shopping cart. I hope they were buying food for more people than themselves.

Ingles did have certain shopping restrictions and, like Food City, lacked hand sanitizer and some other cleaning products including the soft soap I routinely purchase. Their paper products were also limited but available. By this time, it was 8:30 a.m. I had been shopping for an hour and a half and was ready to go home. 

After my wife, Belinda, helped put away the nearly $300 worth of groceries, I purchased on our kitchen shelves and in the refrigerator, the rain stopped. It was time for a morning walk with our dog, Charlie.

As we walked, the sun came out. In the neighborhood and in our yard were yellow daffodils. The neighbor’s yard had a beautiful display of daffodils and grape hyacinths. We walked by a number of trees resplendent with pink cherry blossoms.

The flowers, trees and warm weather signaled for me the beginning of an Appalachian spring. My wife and I realize there is a dangerous and deadly coronavirus present in our state and nation.  But as she said to me, we will during the virus outbreak, “Stay at home, be safe, and continue to often wash our hands.”