A Shopping Odessey

By Kerry Smyth

How My Trip to the Grocery Store Revealed Why the Experts Are (Still) Wrong About C19

I just got back from a trip to my local grocery store. It’s a very large chain with several superstores. It is the first time I’ve gone to the grocery since about 4 days after this C19 lockdown began. Back then we knew mass death was coming, but we all seemed to know it probably had not yet arrived to southwest Ohio. Knowing what we know now, that was an accurate assessment. 

Since that time some major things have changed dramatically. First of all, my place of employment (which will remain nameless) has taken every step that anyone can imagine to keep everyone safe. The social distancing is taken so seriously that we all have developed a strict discipline of adherence. We all wipe down surfaces that we work on multiple times per shift. We don’t touch things we don’t have to touch. We have doubled the width of walkways to create two, single, one-way lanes. We’ve removed 75% of our break room chairs and tables and time clocks. We have developed staggered start times and break times to maximize social distancing. Management has strongly recommended wearing masks at all times. Recently, stations have been set up to check the temperature to check every person before being allowed in the building. There are so many C19 avoidance policy implementations I have lost track. 

And yet, despite all of this, we all know that all these measures, when exercised perfectly at all times, aren’t fool-proof. In fact at the time of this article at least one employee has gone into mandatory quarantine after testing positive for C19. And the more we learn from the experts on the news, the measures taken won’t be enough to totally stop the virus.

Back to my trip to the grocery store. I decided I needed to pick up a few things for a lent friendly dinner the next day. I was expecting to adhere to the same rules as the employees at my place of work. I expected a little less from fellow customers, but knew there would be fewer people and many of those people would be greatly concerned, or so I thought.

At first my odyssey seemed to start as expected. As I entered the moderately crowded parking lot, I noticed a very long line of cars. What were those cars? My daughter figured it out: Those were customers picking up their pre-orders. Ah! Good thinking. At the entrance I had to stop because there were one-way arrows taped to the ground. More good thinking. I made the prediction that all the isles would be one way. Inside an employee well equipped with proper PPE was wiping down the handle of each and every shopping cart for arriving patrons. I felt everything was on par for C19 protection measures. 

Inside I was a little disappointed to see that isles were not one-way. OK, they were a little late to the party on that one, but surely the customers would have to be careful and take up the store’s slack in that regard. Maybe. 

Then off to pick up shrimp at the seafood department. There I saw large spots taped to the floor accompanied by a sign urging customers to be respectful of social distancing. The seafood man was removing fish from the display. I asked him if I could get something. Apparently not. He pointed out that until things get back to normal, the seafood department has limited hours, and I missed it by 30 minutes. Seems kind of strange but I didn’t give him too much grief. Instead, I handled several packages of imitation crab meat with my bare hands to read the different specs before making my decision. The packages that didn’t make the cut were carefully placed back into the fridge. It was at that point I wondered how many other people did that with those packages. Then I wondered how many people did that with every bag, can, bottle and box in the entire store. Everything started feeling dirty, including myself at that point.

Then it was off to the cheese department. There a much younger man behind the counter asked me if I needed help. I asked him about the parmesan cheese in the front shelf and to my dismay he came from behind the counter and proceeded to engage in a full blown face-to-face conversation only about 12” away from me about the variety of cheeses they have. I mean, I’m not that worried about C10 but I’m at least TRYING to execute the CDC’s recommended evasive maneuvers. This guy was just throwing caution to the wind! Ok, it’s time to get out of here.

At the checkout, there were markers on the ground, but no solution for the cashier. They had no hope for getting further than 4 feet away from each and every customer. So I hurried over to the self-checkout lane. There they had a plastic bag over the credit card machine buttons, which was a startling reminder that the giant touchscreen at the checkout I just touched to “get started” was probably dripping with billions of deadly contagions. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. But on my way out I couldn’t help but notice employees in the bagging area socializing less than 2 feet from each other. Customers seemed oblivious at this point as well. To their credit, the ones who were taking social distancing seriously didn’t go full Karen on anyone else failing to live up to those high standards.

After escaping unscathed (or so I naively believe at the time of this writing) I couldn’t help but realize something so obvious. Social distancing is in all of our minds. While extreme discipline exercised by 100% of people can achieve the kind of theoretical social distancing that should theoretically slow a pandemic, in practice its hopelessly wishful thinking. This was a grocery trip. Everyone is making a trip to the grocery eventually, if not regularly already. This is what we would call at work an opportunity zone. There is a line of people trying to get their online order picked up. Why is the inside even open to the public? Why aren’t the employees exercising social distancing? Why isn’t there more measures implemented to help patrons exercise social distancing while inside? And the biggest question of all – if this is still going on, and we can clearly see that social distancing isn’t really a thing for anyone who, let’s say, eats food, then what the hell are we doing? I could have waltz in that grocery store with a 106 degree temperature and that employee in the cheese department would be there for the next 10 days to spread whatever I have to everyone in the neighborhood. Maybe he had the fever? I don’t know. I couldn’t tell.

This conclusion raises some larger questions. For instance, if we aren’t really socially distancing in practice, then why are experts and politicians telling us that social distancing is working? It’s clear now that what experts claim is causing the C19 numbers to be what they are cannot be the cause at all. Whatever led to the case and mortality numbers to be what they are is something different or maybe nothing more than the biological nature of the virus.

I predicted…no, correction…I CALCULATED the numbers we are seeing today very early. I used what I observed as the biological nature of historical pandemics with the numbers we were being given. I made modifications to the numbers based on my prediction that the case number was much higher than being reported. It seemed logical at the time. I publicly stated shortly after CPAC in late February the final numbers will probably not exceed a typical bad flu pandemic. But I will admit, part of that prediction was based on the fact that I have been burned by apocalyptic pandemic hysteria before. I started a podcast on Spreaker way back in 2014. That year, there was mass hysteria drummed up by the mainstream media on both sides of the political isle over Ebola. They had me convinced more than half of all humanity was going out in a painful, bloody, convulsive megadeath. This went on for months. Then the story disappeared.

I wasn’t going to be fooled again. When this C19 story broke, it felt very reminiscent of the panic inducing I remembered from 2014. I remained skeptical. In fact one could say I was inoculated from the hype which enabled me to deep dive into the numbers and get to the truth that eluded less experienced or weaker minded journalists. So I did.

By early March, I had the courage to trust my calculations and go against most doctors, experts, journalists and even some of my friends online that I have immense respect for to publicize my controversial findings. I was hammered for it. Friends, family, strangers all chimed in. A few friends immediately agreed with me. They thanked me as they didn’t have the voice or reach I did. In a just world, my posts would have earned the credit required to be universally accepted as an expert in the field. It won’t because we don’t live in that world, but I digress.

I said we are going to see numbers similar to a bad flu pandemic and that this thing will be over by mid April. Now, we are being told that we will see final numbers similar to a bad flu pandemic, and it’s April 9th and most of humanity is chomping at the bit to get civilization back up and running. The so-called experts say it’s due to the draconian policies centering on the idea of social distancing.
We now know that cannot be true because social distancing is a figment of most people’s imagination. The truth is that C19 played its course the way we figured it would.

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