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March 15, 2020

I arrived at Ralphs, my regular spot for morning coffee and writing at Starbucks. I decided to park in the back lot. It was pretty empty – that’s good I thought, the crowd’s not here yet. Walked up to the door and it was locked. There was a sign: “Use other door.” I drove around to the front parking lot to see people with shopping carts lined up outside the front entrance. I could see that the manager was allowing only a few people in at a time. As I was just going for coffee, I sheepishly asked the manager if I could slip through. He was so kind to let me go in. I felt so guilty doing that. When the baristas saw me, they said, “Athena! We wondered if we were going to see you!” It felt like a homecoming.

It was surreal to see the store in such calm after witnessing pandemonium there the day before. The manager told me controlling the number of shoppers at one time is the only way to establish relative calm, put less pressure on the workers, and allow for re-stocking and thorough sanitizing throughout the day. Store hours are now 8am to 8pm to allow for re-stocking. The back entrance was locked to prevent thefts. As customers left the store, I could hear them thanking the managers for creating a “normal” shopping experience.

This extraordinary moment made me tear up.

Had friends (a couple) over for dinner. Most of the night was spent discussing coronavirus – over plenty of wine. With all of the upset to our daily lives and not knowing what the future will bring, I’m already seeing some positives: I’ve noticed that people are nice to each other and stepping forward to help one another. And complacency is no longer.

I shared with Louie that our neighbor across the street could not even find a loaf of bread at the stores. So, when he went to Seed Bakery in Pasadena, he bought her a gorgeous loaf of olive bread. Then he told another neighbor about the bakery. She bee-lined over and got loaves for her family. The artisanal bread was exotic for her two young boys, but I think they’ll learn to love it.

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