Thriller Writer Tj O'Connor

Life From the Quarantine Zone – Adventures in Shopping

May 15, 2020

May 1, 2020

Quarantine, day 1,859.5, at least it feels that way. Oh, not that I’m unaccustomed to working alone and often from home or a hotel room. No. But my working alone or in isolation means just that. Alone and in isolation. Now, I’m surrounded by a wife who is normally gone all day. A grandkid who thinks being off from First Grade means ol’ Pappa is the new plaything. And, I get to share my few brief moments out of captivity doing errands with some of the most bizarre and challenged people in the world.

Like today. I had a wonderful adventure in shopping.

I entered my local grocery store happy and skipping freely like a First Grader on permanent furlough. Okay, so maybe I wasn’t skipping. Dancing down the sidewalk—no, that sounds a little like the old “light in the loafers.” Let’s just say I was happy to be out. No whistling. No tipping my hat. No Texas Two-Step through the produce aisle. Just happy to be out. Yes, we’ll go with that.

My first encounter was rather startling. In the center of the fruit aisle, a young millennial wearing jeans below his butt cheeks—yes, the fronts were sliced to shreds in the new fashion of “Chicago Mugging”—with a grungy shirt that wreaked of tobacco and, well, grunge.. If I were anything but the worldly adventurer that I am, I might have suspected his quarantine shelter had run out of shower implements. And water.

To complete this young man’s ensemble was a hand-made face mask. Clearly, he was neither tinker, tailor, soldier, or spy, because the face mask was made from what looked like a woman’s brassiere (yup, saw that on Facebook, too), and the young woman was probably still in a training bra, too. Mr. Genius had the face mask over his mouth, chin, and looked over one ear. It dangled in place just below his nose.

So, what does an international security consultant and doer of good deeds do in this case? Why, I offered my services to help correct this mis-guided young man with his attempt to ward off COVID-9.

Yup, I stuck my nose in.

Me: “Sir, nice face mask. Did you make it yourself?”

Genius: “Yep, saw it on Facebook. Used my girlfriend’s bra.”

Me (ignoring the previous training-bra comparison): “Ah, you know what it’s for, right?”

Genius: “Shit yeah. It’s to keep me safe from the germs and crap. You know, to protect me from all the dirt and filth around here.”

Have I mentioned that in addition to his fragrant attire, Mr. Genius’ hands were caked in grease and something suggesting his molestation of a Hersey bar?

Me: “Right, that too. But it’s also for protecting others from, well, you.”

Genius: “Oh, F…k, I know that. I’m careful.”

Yes, I did get his name and have submitted him to the local chapter of the Mensa club.

My last observation for this trip was the pet aisle. It was half-bare like the meat counter and toilet paper supplies. But what really threw me was the lack of plastic dog bones my Labs love so dearly. The section was bare. Bare I tell you. Bare.

When I asked the clerk in the area, she kindly informed me that grocery store was having trouble keeping them in stock.

Really? Plastic dog bones are a quarantine item? Why? Were the local dog packs hording them? Was there a secret recipe for plastic-dog bone stew I hadn’t heard of? As soon as I got home, I searched Emeril Lagasse’s web site for the answer.

Nope. Wasn’t there. The mystery deepens.





I first fell in love with writing while in grade school and over the years continued to dabble with characters and stories whenever life allowed. Lately, I've focused my energy on pursuing this dream—interrupted only by life as a security consultant and the demands of two Labrador retrievers.

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