We were up at 3am. Why? We don’t know. But by 9am we were hungry and it was time to venture forth out into the wider world. And what we required for this Tuesday lay nestled safely in the dreaded – wait for it – Mercadona. There was nothing for it – we had to go.
Jeff slowly put on his shoes and prepared to leave the apartment. Like a man beaten. I gathered all the recycling – why make two trips out into contagion – and we set out. After a stop at the recycling bins on the street, we made our way down the block through masked traffic. Those not wearing one were given a wide berth. Luckily, it’s sparse on the sidewalk these days and most of the people out on the street were over the age of 75. These are not people debating masks. Their lives depend upon it.
We arrived at the Mercadona and immediately noticed something different. No hall monitor was directing and sorting customers at the door in the vestibule. The lone sad torn-open bag of plastic gloves lay in the window sill by the hand sanitizer dispenser, like a dead fish in the Valencian sun. I took my life in my hands reaching into it to pull out four sets of gloves – including a pair for Jeff – as we pre-slathered, then post-slathered ourselves in hand sanitizer. I started to wheel the trolley into the store and Jeff stopped me, concerned.
‘You can’t take that in there.’ He cautioned. During the State of Alarm we had to park it at the trolley stand. Too much risk.
‘Look at that lady down the aisle.’ I told him, boldly. ‘She has her’s. There’s safety in numbers.’
He shook his head and hung back. Knowing danger was lurking around every turn of the aisle. The Scolder was surely here somewhere.
We went to the fruit section and I picked up everything I needed. Like the professional fruit bagger I am. SuperMercado be damned! After perusing the entire store and filling my food stroller we approached check out. This is the most dangerous time in the Mercadona experience. It’s when bad things, very bad things, can happen. And this time, it’s where Jeff bailed out on me.
‘I’ll go stand at the front. I don’t want to get in trouble for having two people from the same family in line.’ And he walked away – leaving me to whatever fate awaited me in the belt loading experience. My hero.
As I waited until directed forward, I watched the checker watching me. She beckoned. At the last possible moment I turned my food stroller around and positioned it appropriately with the handle forward. After unloading my cart I looked up and the checker smiled. Actually smiled at me. I could see it in her eyes. And she inclined her head.
‘Bien.’ She said.
I beamed like a kindergartener who’s received her first gold star for finger painting. You just wish your mother was there to see it.
We had no further chit chat other than her asking me if I needed my parking validated or wanted to purchase a bolsa.
Packing the trolley, I paid, then made my way to Jeff.
‘Did she say ‘bien’ to you?’ He asked – shocked beyond belief. We haven’t been smiled at by a Mercadona checker in months.
‘Yes, she did.’ I said proudly. ‘I wanted to to tell her ‘This isn’t my first rodeo’ but I didn’t know the word for ‘rodeo’ in Spanish. Come to think of it, maybe ‘rodeo’ is a Spanish word that means rodeo.’
Jeff laughed. ‘You could have tried ‘No es mi primero matador.’
Huh? ‘I’m pretty sure you just said ‘This isn’t my first bull fighter.’ And I’m not sure that would have been well received. By either of us. We have a tenuous enough detente with one checker at the Mercadona, now. Let’s not get cocky.’
But I will say we walked home a little taller. Today we won the Mercadona. Maybe things are getting back to normal. And I’m pretty sure I need to buy a lottery ticket to celebrate.