Sunday, January 31, 2021

Of COVID & coffee

I mentioned on Facebook recently that I hadn't been in a Starbucks since the pandemic hit last March. A friend (who lives in a different province) commented, "Wow, your lockdown must be pretty tight. I go to Starbucks at least twice a week for my favourite Chai latte."  I responded, "They're open (for takeout anyway) -- we just haven't gone."  

I try not to be too judgmental about other people's choices during this pandemic -- but I've been thinking about that exchange since then, and what it says about the pandemic and about the different attitudes and ways of coping that people have about it. 

Being retired (and yes, being childless), I know dh & I are EXTREMELY fortunate right now, compared to some of our peers. We don't have jobs and commutes and coworkers to contend with. Or parents nearby to look in on and grocery shop for and take to medical appointments. Or kids to contend with or worry about, or grandchildren to babysit. (Oh, that we had grandchildren to babysit...!)  For the most part, we don't HAVE to go out (and expose ourselves to the virus), unless we really want or need to.  

And so we generally don't, unless we need groceries, prescriptions or personal care items. (Dh prefers to choose his own groceries versus ordering online for delivery or pickup, but we try to plan as much as possible to minimize the number of trips he makes -- generally once a week.)  Even when more things were open, we didn't go a whole lot more places. We haven't been inside a restaurant to eat (or even on a restaurant patio, when they were open -- although dh does go for takeout on Saturday nights) or in a mall to shop since last March. We haven't seen much of our adorable Great-Nephew, especially since the cold weather arrived ( = indoor visits), even though it's (figuratively) killing us not to, when he's so close by.  

Probably the one thing we've indulged in most (aside from haircuts every six weeks, when it was allowed) was trips to the bookstore, when it opened again last summer after the initial lockdown. Even so, we didn't go nearly as often (nor stay as long) as in pre-COVID times. Our closest Starbucks is in the same space as the bookstore;  pre-COVID, we used to go there first, get our coffee/tea latte and then stroll around, browsing the bookshelves and sipping our drinks.  

The bookstore isn't open right now (curbside pickup only), but when it was (this past summer/fall), no food or drinks were allowed. (You obviously can't wear a mask and drink coffee at the same time, and masks are mandatory.) The after-hours divider/barrier between the coffee counter and the bookstore stayed up all the time now, so you couldn't easily move from one part of the building to the other. You could go in one door for a browse in the bookstore, or you could go in the other door to the Starbucks and pick up something to drink (&/or to snack on), and take it outside or home -- but not both. 

Obviously, there's nothing stopping us from going into Starbucks for a coffee, as my friend does. It remains open, even though the bookstore is not. I've asked dh a few times, as we left the bookstore, if he wanted to duck in there and pick up something to take in the car with us. He said no. 

I was fine with that. We'd already spent a half-hour in the bookstore. We didn't really NEED his short mild coffee or my tall non-fat English breakfast tea latte, or the additional exposure to the baristas and other patrons in the now-socially distanced lineup (or to spend $7 on something we could make when we got home for a fraction of the price, for that matter...!).  

Mel had a post recently about a "pandemic risk budget" -- a system set up by some housemates to protect themselves from COVID-19. Obviously, anything we do outside the security of our own homes is risky, to some extent.  And how much additional risk we're obligated or willing to take on will vary from one person to the next. 

But it seems foolish to try to pretend that COVID-19 doesn't exist, and that we can still do all the things we would normally be doing and go all the places we would normally go without taking on some element of risk (even when we're all wearing masks and sanitizing our hands as we enter stores and trying to stay at least six feet apart while we're in there).  Just because a store or restaurant is open doesn't mean we should go in there, unless we really need to.  The more you go out, the more stores you go in & out of, the more restaurant patios you dine out on (when the weather allowed it), the more people you interact with or share the same space with (even briefly), the more risk you expose yourself to. 

Maybe dh & I are suckers for spending most of the past year sitting at home on our butts, when we could have been out shopping and eating on restaurant patios and having fun like so many friends & family members seem to be doing (judging from the photos we've seen on social media). (Sometimes I feel like we are.) 

But we've been asked (told!), by our governments and health officials, to stay at home as much as possible and minimize contact with people outside our own households. I guess we all have to decide how to spend our pandemic risk budgets -- what's most important to us and what's not, beyond the basics of food & prescriptions. For dh & me, that doesn't include Starbucks (much as I love their tea lattes).  

I try not to fault people when I hear they've been to the mall (when the mall was open), or to someone's house or yard, or to the beach or a pool party last summer, or to a friend's cottage up north. (I try not to get pissed off when I hear voices & laughter in the hallway outside our condo unit door -- not so much because of the noise factor -- although that can bug me too! -- but because someone on the floor has clearly had visitors, when we're not supposed to be in each other's homes.)  I know that, for the most part, most people are doing the best they can in a very difficult situation. 

It's been a hard year. It's HARD staying at home all the time and not seeing people. (Even when you're introverts like me & dh.)   

But I think it would be a whole lot harder watching someone I love get sick from COVID-19. (Or worse.) Or getting it myself. Or knowing that someone close to me got sick, because I just had to have that Starbucks latte. 

It's a pandemic, people.  It's not a normal situation, so I'm not sure why some people still keep trying to act like it is. 


  1. Yes. To all your points. I of course am in a different situation, so don't pretend to know how you feel. But so many people are selfish, and don't want to adjust their behaviour to help others. Or think, arrogantly, that they know better. And consequently the situation drags on for everyone. It is so ridiculous.

    And I for one am glad you haven't taken risks, and that you're still here blogging!

  2. This is really getting to me as well. So tired of doing everything right and then leaving the house for a walk only to see people acting like nothing is happening. The lack of government oversight/leadership is full-on criminal. I might try to post about it!

  3. Yes. It is exhausting feeling like you are the only sane one. Or among the sane ones, and people are acting like this is all over. IT'S NOT. I really liked Mel's "should" vs "allowed" distinction. I'm glad you're on the safe side. 💜

    1. Well, "safe" is a relative term during a pandemic, I suppose... but on that scale, I think we're safer than a lot of the people around us seem to be...!