Sylvester 5/23/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

They finally arrived. Throughout the pandemic, I have been looking for masks but haven’t found them. To this day, I have no idea where everybody is buying them, and have been keenly aware that I don’t have one. As such, I’ve been taking extra care to keep my distance from people in public (just in case I’m infected) or holding my breath momentarily if I find myself passing too close. I felt I had no choice; as the country is struggling to reopen (hopefully signifying the end of the pandemic, although I doubt it) I finally broke down and ordered masks online. Yesterday, they were delivered.

Three black reusable clothe masks were in my possession, and a situation arose where I felt the need to stop by my storage locker. Now, I don’t always wear my mask. I think about what I’m doing and if it’s necessary. For example, I see people driving alone with a mask on, and I wonder who they are trying to avoid infecting (or afraid of becoming infected by). Well, to each their own. Better to over use them than not use them enough, I guess.

So as long as I had to run to the storage unit anyway (and it is forecast to rain tomorrow), I thought, well, I’ll run to the grocery store as well. With my mask in my pocket, I go to the little grocery store that is near my mailbox because, frankly, they’re nice people and a friendly environment. Walking from my vehicle to the store, I pop my mask on while carrying my reusable grocery bags which they won’t handle, but that’s okay; I can pack my own and cut back on plastic bag waste. Better still, they’re much sturdier and have a much greater carrying capacity without fear of the bag tearing, so how can you go wrong? Besides, usually (although not during the pandemic since they don’t want to handle them) you get a little bit of a price break for using them, so they pay for themselves eventually.

Walking from the store back to the vehicle, I take off my mask, carrying both bags in one hand thanks to the handy and sturdy carrying straps and stuff it back in my pocket. I load up my groceries, but don’t have to “corral” the shopping cart because, as sturdy as these bags are (yes, this is an endorsement) I can leave the cart in the store and just carry them myself. I hop in the car and take off, heading to the second closest exit since that one will put me at a light making it easier to merge to the left lane for the next intersection.

Yes, I plan my life.

But, there, crossing this little road leading to my light, I see an older man (not elderly, but not young) carrying half a dozen loaded bags.

No, I didn’t give him my reusable bags.

But I did roll down my window and ask him if he wanted a ride. I’ve been in that situation, carrying groceries for over a mile because I didn’t have a car. It can be done, but it’s not fun. A tedious and cumbersome task made worse as the bags hit your legs at every step, potentially damaging the groceries, and certainly hurting your legs. He accepted my offer.

He was living in a cheap motel, something I’ve had to do as well. They exist; this one was forty dollars a night which is about half of what I would expect. These hotels are old and run down with very few amenities save a bed and running water. He moved here from Atlanta just a few weeks ago because, according to his research, there are far more employment opportunities here in Omaha than there. I have no idea what his situation is, but apparently, he is here alone. He’s just trying to find his way through this world, living the American dream of finding work with a high enough pay to afford his cheap motel room and to actually eat.

It’s pretty clear he was lonely. He took the relatively short ride (which translates to an incredibly long walk, especially with groceries) as an opportunity to chat. He told me his name is Sylvester, explained his situation (but not the history that lead to it), but he also mentioned that with people in Alabama are nice, they are not as helpful as those in Omaha, choosing me as an example of a stranger that would go out of his way to give a ride to a stranger. I hope things work out for him and that this turns out to be a more positive move for him than he had hoped for.

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