Those who can hear must now also feel

Paolo Kernahan -
Paolo Kernahan -

THERE IS something more than mildly unjust in being made to pay for the sins and failures of others. The steep rise in covid19 cases and quiet return of fatalities are the inevitable results of prevailing trends in the population coupled with glaring omissions by the authorities. The virus got an opening and galloped gaily though. For businesses and ordinary civilians who dutifully honoured prescribed behaviours and procedures, in stark contrast to those who didn't, a revival of restrictions is doubly devastating.

While I was at the grocery recently an older woman stood shoulder to shoulder with me while I was getting ready to pay for my stuff. She put her groceries on the conveyor belt at the same time as me. This woman was so close I could tell her hand slipped with the Alcolado Glacial. The vapours were making my knees buckle.

Now, given her age, I correctly surmised that kicking her in the chest MME style to re-establish some space would probably have been regarded by others as a bit extreme. I demurred silently by moving away from her. The cashier, oblivious to the unfolding drama, told me to go back to where I was because the card payment machine's cable wasn't long enough. I looked at the old woman and asked her if she could back it up a bit.

Well in the words of Chaucer, who tell me do dat. Aunty battleaxe raised her voice, provoking a minor scene in a grocery that suddenly became very small. All other noises, the piped music, the chatter of other customers seemed instantly muted in deference to her vituperation. "Of course I will move!” (She still hadn't moved.) "I come forward is only because you move!" (Well that wasn't true.) She turned to others in the line, incidentally all packed together like beads on a necklace, continuing her vocal objections to my effrontery. They nodded in agreement and communal stupidity – I was the heel in the equation.

This grocery I've had to add to a growing number of establishments I can no longer patronise. The management and staff of these blacklisted businesses refuse to enforce safety protocols, thereby putting customers in the covid19 crosshairs.

Additionally, because they're lax about safety, these businesses create potentially combative environments – gladiatorial arenas wedged between the aisles where conflict can erupt between right-thinking citizens and belligerent backsides.

Irresponsible attitudes are well known to the groceries. President of the supermarkets association Rajiv Diptee says they've been tracking some interesting trends. People, it seems, are using grocery stores as a place to meet up, for families to hang out. As such, limp pleadings that only one person should do the shopping are ignored. As the saying goes, the price of failure is eternal ignorance.

The excuses Trinis give for visiting the groceries in their numbers are astounding. "There is no one to leave the sick, elderly and the children with at home." Why are you dragging the sick and elderly to the grocery in the first place? Are you hoping covid19 will finish them off? "The husband does get the wrong things when he goes." Never heard of grocery list technology? And the ridiculousness goes on.

Diptee also says they have to constantly remind people to wear masks properly, wash their hands and physical distance. I don't know what he's talking about as I haven't seen too much staff intervention at establishments I've visited.

Here's what I have seen – grocery store employees routinely walking into the buildings without washing their hands or using sanitiser. Patrons look out for the handwashing “police.” If no one is there, they dash into the grocery. There is continued crowding of the aisles by both shoppers and shelf stackers.

What is most unfair is that the grocery stores were in the privileged position of operating throughout the lockdown last year. They didn't suffer the financial losses other businesses such as restaurants and bars have yet they see no obligation to rigidly moderate the recklessness of their customers.

Perhaps they're afraid of intemperate or violent reactions. Trinis are notoriously averse to being given instructions. It's almost as if they interpret being told what to do as a personal attack and egregious disrespect that can be allowed no quarter. As such, everyone does as they please, and the rest of us who follow the rules are made to pay the price. The example is set by the leadership and emulated by the herd – but then, isn't that the story of TT?


"Those who can hear must now also feel"

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