Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Signs of the times

Because there are no events, no plays, no concerts, no open bars, and therefore nowhere to drive to, my walks all around town continue.

Yesterday evening, I walked to our local supermarket, Ralphs (yes, again), this time to pick up the most important staple:  coffee. Yes, we still had mediocre coffee (the kind my wife drinks:  that stuff that comes in the jumbo red plastic tub), but I drink my coffee black, so I like it to be actual coffee. Imagine my dismay upon waking up and discovering that the real coffee, the kind I buy and brew, was gone. Turns out that my 17-year-old discovered there’s a difference. “Hey!” he said later, when I asked him about it, “your coffee is better!” So now I’ll be buying twice as much of it, I guess.

So, I decided to walk to Ralphs. My wife proceeded to write up an entire shopping list.

“I’m walking,” I said, after looking at it. The last time I told her I was walking to Ralphs, which is a mile away, she asked me to bring back two 12-pound hams. This time she had a list that ran the length of the paper, and included things we didn’t even need, like toilet paper.

“We have a case of toilet paper,” I said. I know, because it’s sitting unopened on the landing leading to the upstairs bedrooms.

“Just in case,” she said.

She also wanted two bottles of hazelnut creamer, kalamata olives (okay — those were for me), maybe a roast, and other things I couldn’t imagine carrying home in my arms in the dark for a mile.

“I can’t carry all this.”

“Okay,” she said. “Then just one bottle of creamer. Just get the one. Do you want a backpack?”

My plan was similar to the one described here:  Visit to the ATM across from Ralphs to get cash, use that cash at the cigar shop in that strip mall so I’d have plenty of cigars for the week — and especially for the exciting cross-country virtual cigar party my friend Doug was going to host tonight! — and then go over to Ralphs, make a deposit at the other bank’s ATM in there, and buy coffee. Coffee and, I guess, whatever else I could carry. My wife outfitted me with a black backpack usually reserved for hiking. Now I really felt like an apocalyptic wanderer stocking up on provisions. At Ralphs I got two boxes of salad, one bottle of creamer, a jar of olives, two bags of good coffee, a bag of chips that were free because I had a coupon, and a couple of other things. I slipped them into the backpack and headed back home.

One thing I’ve noticed in these pandemic perambulations  around my neighborhood is colorful chalk messages written on sidewalks. Some appear written by children, some by adults. Sometimes they are words of encouragement, like “hang in there” or “we’re all in this together.” (I’ve seen each of those.) Last night, I came across this one:


At first, I wondered if we’d had a visit from my friend Joe, who lives in Atlantic City and who in my 37 years of friendship with him has always been known to say, “Oh, yay!” But Joe would never leave out the “Oh,” and certainly never the exclamation mark. Still, it made me think of him, so I texted him the photo and he happily made it his cover photo on Facebook.

Other messages are demanding. Tonight, while walking my dogs in a different direction, I came across this:

Yes, it reads “Put YouR Phone DOWN.” For the record, my phone was down, and in my pocket — that is, until I came across this and took a photo of it.

Signs like these are all over town. They are our time’s version of the hobo signs left to advise other drifters in the 1930s that the house behind this walkway had a nice lady who would feed you, or would offer work, or had a vicious dog to avoid.

When I got home last night finally with the groceries, I checked my phone to see how much I’d walked that day. I had walked to my office in the morning to conduct my playwriting workshop (virtually, of course), then walked back, then took the dogs for a long walk, then, as I said, walked a mile to Ralphs and then a mile back — and all of that added up to 10,369 steps.

“I just cleared ten thousand steps today,” I told my wife. “We’re always told that we’re supposed to walk ten thousand steps a day — but this is crazy! Who has time for this?” Leaving aside the fact that I average eight miles a day of walking every year at Comic-Con. But that’s Comic-Con! Have I said how much I miss the gym? I miss the gym. I can burn twice as many calories, and more enjoyably, and there’s a sauna, a steam room, and a jacuzzi. And then I drive home.

My wife was eyeing me as I pulled the meager groceries out of the backpack. “It’s like the London Blitz,” she said, watching as I produced two bags of coffee. “Ye got any chocolates in there? Nylons?”

I could’ve bought those at the supermarket — but I couldn’t have bought a single cleaning product. The entire aisle had been stripped bare — again. Anything that might kill germs or disinfect in any way was nowhere available.

Which is definitely another sign of the times.

2 Responses to “Signs of the times”

  1. Dan Says:

    Actually, Chocolate and Nylons can be used as a disinfectant. Check out my latest book, THE SWINGING BACHELOR’S GUIDE TO SQUALOR.

  2. Uncle Rich Says:

    I walk a few blocks to the produce market for items I need and with the hope that they’ll have something terrific in their bargain cart. Nice just to see folks and weird that there’s so little traffic on Rt. 9, a major road.

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