I have been a huge supporter of how the Spanish government has handled this pandemic. Both at the national level and locally here in Valencia. It’s an unprecedented situation in this century and they’ve managed through it – adjusting as more information and data have become available. We feel pretty safe that the decisions they’re making are based on health and not politics.
Having said that – there are times in our every day life when the measures recommended by the government are interpreted by businesses and the results are less than optimal.
We went to the Mercadona the other day. The only reason we generally go there is that Jeff likes their peanuts and green tea better than anywhere else. And I like the cheese guy (but the cheese counter is gone now). Jeff has tried ready-made tea from Consum and SuperMercado and SuperCor. But they’re just not the same. In his opinion their tea tastes like Lemon Pledge (a furniture cleaner back in the US). So Mercadona it is for these most important of food staples in Jeff’s comfort foods repertoire.
We picked up a bunch of other stuff – we were already there – and then, because only one person in a family is allowed to go through checkout and he had the wallet, I stood at the front of the store. The checker was eyeing me closely to ensure I didn’t try to rush the belt to help bag the groceries. I’ve been chastised for this before and I know better than to tempt fate.
Jeff was putting our purchases on the belt when she shouted at him loudly and began waving her arms. Then she went over and took his cart and re-positioned it before grabbing his arms and moving him to a specific location. Then she invited him to continue to put his things on the belt.
‘Proper social distance.’ She told him.
He looked stunned – shook his head – then unloaded the cart. The checker kept up the commentary throughout his transaction and by the time he made it to me he was pissed off.
‘Did you see that? She was all over me! Like she wanted to wrestle, moving my cart and then actually touching me before putting me back into the exact spot I was in before. She didn’t even change her gloves after touching my skin. How many times has she already done that to other people today?’
We were both surprised at her approach. No signs warned us that this interaction was imminent. It had never happened before. And then I read in the paper today that this is actually Mercadona’s new policy as of 1 June. The cart positioning and customer positioning are to be strictly enforced. And apparently, they’ll violate government-mandated social distancing rules to see that you’re properly socially distanced. Huh? Confused as us? You’re not alone. It seems their other customers don’t like it either and they’ve lit up Twitter to complain. Jeff gave his feedback in person.
We believe in the measures put in place are to benefit everyone. And we’re happy to comply. But honestly – there is so much variation between stores, and so many signs, placards, tapes on the ground, disinfecting stations protocol that change by phase. Keeping up with what Carrefour requires vs. Mercadona vs. El Corte Ingles. We need a score card written in pencil and a big fat eraser.
We hear today that in the New Normality – the social distance will go from 2.0 meters to 1.5 meters. So all these signs and stickers made up by businesses will have to be changed. At what cost? Crazy.
I read the article to Jeff over coffee and he laughed out loud. We’ve felt pretty isolated during the lock down and de-escalation. But with this, our sense of solidarity with the community has returned. And it’s just another example of why he needs to find a new taste for the Lemon Pledge green tea at another grocery store.