The Reckoning Week 55: An Hour at Walgreens

March 31st, 2021


In the beginning of the pandemic, when I was still grocery shopping as if each trip were my last, I brought Eliza to the Co-op to fill up a cart with as much as it could possibly hold. Despite pep talks, bribes, and threats, she was very handsy in the store, and by the time we got to the checkout, I was a frayed ball of nerves. Running her fingers along the conveyor belt was the last straw. “Stop touching everything!” I hissed at her. “You’re going to get us all killed!”

I’m telling you about this moment in full disclosure, because it was not one of my prouder moments. In fact, I think the cashier shares with me the opinion that it was not only terrible parenting but absolutely ridiculous behavior on the part of a citizen of the co-op. She was not there to witness my heartfelt apologies to my daughter on the way home, so I have avoided running into her ever since. I think she may actually have quit the Co-op after realizing that some of the shoppers are unhinged live wires.

Back then, I was a wreck, living in absolute terror of everyday surfaces. Pumping gas was a nightmare. Forget about paying a parking meter. 

A year later, I receive a last-minute call from Walgreens that my number has come up on the waste list. “Be here at 4:30,” he instructs me.

At long last, the day has come. I can hardly wait.


I am so nervous that something will go awry that I arrive at Walgreens 15 minutes early, with my six-year-olds in tow. Normally I would never bring both of them to a store like this, and they haven’t experienced it much, as evidenced by their behavior: running up and down the aisles yelling WHAT IS THIS PLACE I LOVE IT CAN WE LIVE HERE. 

I see Walgreens through new eyes. There sure are a lot of shiny sparkly colorful objects. Floor to ceiling, a cornucopia of goodies. Wart removal medicine! Fungal spray! Corn pads! I am stuck in the foot-ailments section, in line to check in.

I am so, so grateful to have received this call and have never been more happy and willing to spend an hour in Walgreens in my life, which perhaps explains why I am seemingly totally okay with my daughters touching absolutely everything in sight, including the floor, then putting their hands on and sometimes in their mouths and all around their eyes and nose. My gentle admonishments to “Please stop touching everything” come from a place of complacent surrender. 

At some point during our hour in Walgreens, one of them has to  use the bathroom (of course) and I am forced to beg someone for access and hustle my kids through a nasty back hallway to a tiny, cramped, dirty bathroom. 

“Please don’t touch the toilet,” I plead wanly, knowing that she is absolutely going to touch the toilet.

After I finally get the shot and can move around the store a bit, I purchase my daughters coloring pads with built-in markers to keep them occupied while we wait out the mandatory “watching” period with a total stranger who has now become my closest friend through this bonding experience of getting the vaccine together in a crowded Walgreens. The markers fall on the floor repeatedly.

Pick them up, take cap off, put cap in mouth.

I have come a long way since my moment of hysteria at the Co-op a year ago. I am a different person now. I am still incredibly anxious. I worry that my entire family got COVID waiting in line for a COVID vaccine at Walgreens. But my phobia of surfaces has turned into a lazy woman’s sort of OCD, and I have succumbed, to some extent. 

When it was finally my turn for the shot, I asked Phoebe to take my picture, but my new best friend kindly offered to do it for me, and both girls jumped in my lap. This is a moment I’m so glad I have memorialized. 


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What I’m reading:

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

What I’m listening to:

This Moth story by Beth de Araújo was so moving

What I’m eating:

I have discovered two new ambrosial products for the hardcore sugar/wheat denier:

What I’m working on:

For Strivr: CHRO perspective: Why we need more innovative and effective learning to succeed


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One Response to “The Reckoning Week 55: An Hour at Walgreens”

  1. Thomas Mason says:


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