Papering over the Coronavirus cracks


Going grocery shopping has always been about as pleasant an experience as the time I had all my wisdom teeth taken out in two visits a week apart to a dentist’s chair.

That’s sitting wide awake, as a Wickham Terrace specialist who may or may not have had some formal dental training, worked on one side of my mouth each visit, with only local anaesthetic that wore out its welcome and left me with two weekends with some packets of Aspro, a bullet to bite down on and almost unbearable pain.

But not the other day. What a wonderful experience it was to wander down to my local Coles supermarket. Joyous even.

I was practically whistling as the missus and I worked to fill up our trolley. The big bastard too; not the shallower one or, heaven forbid, the handheld basket I normally reach for more in hope than anything of shaping the things to come and shortening such outings.

It was a lot of fun. Chatting to other shoppers was a joy. If the truth be known, i didn’t want to leave.

And the reason? It was 8.10am in Open Sores in northern NSW, not much more than a skimming rock’s throw from the South Pacific. Only one shuttered door was open and a security guard was present to check our senior’s cards, or if we’d forgotten to bring those, to politely age us by a check of our remaining teeth.

That’s right. Only smelly old people were allowed in There was not a single bare-footed, surf-bleached, uncombed blond-haired, snotty-nosed brat about. Or their children.

Just us oldies, as we shuffled arthritically or zimmer-framed our way inside to see what the shelves held for our buying pleasure. If we could remember who we were and why we were there.

The mood was light and breezy even before that point. We had passed a couple with their trolley full on the walkway outside, and I lunged forward and pretended to grab their very large packet of dunny paper – it was at least a 12 roller – and make a run with it. We all had a good laugh over that seeing we weren’t in America and I wasn’t shot dead on the spot.  The levity continued inside.

I got to chatting with a couple that might have been even older than us if that’s at all possible and the conversation turned to the fact that even at that time of day, the shelves of potatoes were empty.

The husband enjoyed my suggestion that seeing the dunny paper shelves were already stripped bare as well, people were buying whole potatoes, preferably washed, to plug up their arseholes to stop them from shitting.

He adlibbed a quick response, which brought a quick admonishment from his better half to stop being so vulgar. He probably hadn’t been that vulgar for yonks and my best guess is that it was cathartic for him.

In an adjoining aisle, I stopped to look longingly at the cans of  Heinz spaghetti and spoke loudly to a dear old thing standing nearby: “My missus won’t let me have that. Says it’s not good for me.”

We shared a few tender moments reminiscing fondly over how much we had both enjoyed a can of spaghetti on thick white bread with lashings of butter in our youths so, so many decades before.

Each aisle in its turn brought similar fresh and pleasurable encounters.

Brief disclosures about our favourite Beatles tune, agreement on how nice that lovely Frank Partridge QC had been on Pick a Box, how on earth could our own parents have been fond of The Goons but never quite got Monty Python’s Flying Circus, or why, standing beside the icecream fridges and both reaching for the same box of Bulla ice confectioneries, the bi-jingo has never made a comeback. Or the ill-fated strawberry Hava-Heart for that matter.

Some of the chats got a bit emotional, especially in one aisle where the pasta and rice used to be and myself and a complete stranger also affected by this senseless panic buying remembered the decency and fairness Australia used to exhibit before that lying little cunt of a rodent John Howard reshaped the nation in his own selfish, self-centred and narrow-minded image.

That conversations ended with a very sensible social distancing touch of our walking stick tips and silly attempts to hide the fact we’d both teared up about national reputations lost.

Okay, okay. So I’ve made some of this up. Can you pick the true encounters?

The final true one was at the checkout, with our trolley – the big bastard – was chockablock with about two weeks worth of home-detention self-isolation.

“Only the one packet of four toilet rolls?” I queried gently, knowing that any criticism of a woman’s shopping technique can lead to a messy divorce.

“Are you sure that’s going to be enough for two really old arseholes?”