Here’s a public service announcement for you, and let me preface this with a couple of disclaimers: I was a Girl Scout, and I’m a super nice person. Hardly ever do I get mad at anyone about anything, so what I’m about to say might sound harsh. Forgive me Mrs. Feldman, my troop leader, but once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout.
I’m saying what I’m about to say because I took an oath to do my duty to help others:
Attention shoppers: Next time you go to pick-up a few things from the grocery store, maybe you should pick up after yourself.
Don’t leave your biohazardous waste in the parking lot for someone else to pick up. It’s not their job. Not the high school kid who’s working regular shifts to keep you in over-priced eggs and boxed cake mixes, or the store manager who has his hands full restocking toilet paper that you keep hoarding.
Or, the former Girl Scout who wants to help but can’t bring herself to touch your filthy prophylactics.
Tonight wasn’t the first time I noticed the unfamiliar litter in the parking lot at East Side Plaza. A couple of days ago a discarded face mask stopped me in my tracks, abandoned in a handicap parking space next to a pair of spent medical gloves near the cart station. I bent over to get a closer look, just to be sure I wasn’t seeing things. I shook my head wondering what to do. I didn’t have extra gloves to use to pick the stuff up, and I didn’t really feel comfortable doing so.
But it bothered me all the way through the store, and on my way out I snapped a photo. Maybe I should have dumped the contents of one of my plastic shopping bags into my trunk and used the bag to pick up the grimy mask and then carried it across the parking lot to the trash can at the store entrance. But I didn’t have the presence of mind to do that, at the time.
Social distance, I’m getting used to. Social dissonance – as in Haz-Mat littering during a pandemic – is not OK.
My trip to Hannaford tonight was to restock on some essentials, a quick in and out. As I passed the wine aisle I stopped six-feet away from night manager Mike, to catch up. He’s holding down the fort at home with the kids during the day while his wife is at work. He has them on a tight schedule. No lingering in PJs. They get up, shower, get dressed and get to work, like any other day. Screen time happens when the school work is done, even while learning remotely. Routine is important in these jumbled times. When his wife comes home, he’s off for a night shift at the market, keeping everything running smoothly. Mike is one of the many reasons I’m a loyal Hannaford shopper.
He shouldn’t have to worry about your gross castaway gloves.
I got what I came for and headed to check-out No. 6 where the cashier greeted me with a smile and asked how I was doing. I looked him in the eye and told him I was mad, causing his scanning hand to stutter a little as the barcode registered my skinless, boneless chicken thighs.
“It’s not you,” I offered quickly so as not to slow him down, although, through the Plexiglass shield that separated us, I could see he was all dredlocks and ears.
“I’m mad about the discarded gloves and masks all over your parking lot. Who does that?” I said.
“Thank you!,” he responded, as six boxes of essential chocolate Jell-O pudding beeped their way into the loading zone. “I thought it was just me who was seeing it. And it’s not just on the ground, they leave them in the carts, too.”
“Ugh, no way,” I said out loud, waiting for Wayne and Garth in my head to echo, “Way.”
We exchanged insults about the mindless, careless, selfish people who take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from novel coronavirus spores that might be lurking on shopping carts or cold case handles and then ball them up and toss them on the ground like it’s nothing, with no thought about the safety of me, or you.
Just then another employee who I’ve watched evolve from cashier to the guy who troubleshoots at the registers joined us to bag up my stuff.
“How are you doing tonight?” he asked brightly.
“Oh I’m just over here venting,” I said, catching the look on his face which seemed prepared for an angry-shopper screed.
Below: Disgusting slideshow by an angry Girl Scout
“It’s not you guys, it’s all the gloves and masks people are tossing in your parking lot,” I said, sort of repeating myself but feeling like the three of us were connecting over more than the usual pleasantries reserved for the average check-out experience. It sure beats Zoom meetings right now, I’ll tell you that. Even from six feet away without a happy hour beverage in hand, I could tell we were in the same headspace.
“It’s terrible,” he said, acknowledging my rage as he gently double-bagged my bottle of essential La Vielle Firme Reserve Brut, first in paper then in plastic. before carefully loading it into my cart for me.
Before he could say any more he had to go supervise something else, which left me to gather my groceries and head back out into the night – but not before stopping at the trash can outside the store to deposit my green Latex gloves. As I walked toward my car, which was parked in front of Pizza Market, I decided to play a game of I-Spy. With my Google phone set to camera mode, I spied the carnage of mangled gloves on the ground and – just like the cashier said – orphaned in carts. I took photos of every glove I saw, including the four next to my car – two on either side – and the small empty bottle of hand sanitizer that had been flattened by a car tire and left to die. I can only imagine how many more I’d have found if I’d scoured the lot.
I drove home, whipped up some pudding, popped my champagne, baked some hot and spicy boneless skinless chicken thighs and decided to refocus my rage into a public service announcement wrapped in a long-winded story.
Yeah, I get that life in the time of COVID-19 is stressful. Everyone’s kind of paranoid, unsure of whether to wear the gloves and the masks, or just the gloves, or go commando and scrub-up later with hand sanitizer. We’re not sure if we should be disinfecting the groceries, unboxing everything and repackaging them just to be safe, Clorox-wiping the countertops to decontaminate them after possibly smuggling “the invisible enemy” home from an essential trip out into the world. We don’t really know if this coronavirus can live on the cardboard of a 12-pack of seltzer, or if it is just floating through the air ready to get sucked up into your nostrils along with a whiff of daffodils on the next springtime breeze.
Right now personal protective equipment – and social distancing – is all that stands between us and “it.”
I’m not here to judge. Whatever your official position is on wearing gloves and masks, that’s up to you. Erring on the side of caution seems like the right thing. Me? I’m a Girl Scout, so I’m doing my duty which means not spreading my personal waste in your space.
So next time you gear up to go out, for the love of God and country, toss your own gloves and masks into a trash can when you’re finished with them. Remember, these are the same personal protective equipment that our brave healthcare workers and, yes, grocery store clerks, rely on to keep working through this crisis because one of us is going to end up needing emergency medical care, or six boxes of chocolate pudding, and they will be there to make sure we can get what we need when we need it.
They shouldn’t have to clean up our messes, too.
Alternative public service announcement, Don’t litter. Period.
Carol Robidoux is founder and publisher of Manchester Ink Link and occasionally uses this space to write about stuff just so she can flaunt her glamour photo from 1992.