Yesterday was the first day since the March lockdown that it felt like a normal, pre-COVID day at work. People were happy, asking questions about food, looking for fun things and not just commodities to tide them through 2-3 weeks so they didn’t have to venture out again. Probably it was due to Valentine’s Day so I don’t want to get too excited, but it was just really nice.
Mostly I think it’s people seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. A number of folks were wearing buttons saying they had been vaccinated. I know a lot of people might see that as showing bread to the poor* but I think it’s great. Clearly it’s an attempt by some public health organization to encourage the folks who are wary of getting the vaccine. To me, it was just good to see a sign of progress. I mean we still have 100% mask compliance and people weren’t buying for parties, but it seemed like – for yesterday at least – people were allowing themselves to think we’ll get through this.
We pushed a three amazing cheeses all day and for the first time in a long time, people were really interested and receptive. The Phoebe from Briar Rose is an organic Ayrshire milk bark-wrapped cheese from Oregon. This cheese has improved tremendously since I last had it and we were lucky to get any wheels at all. Rich, creamy, meaty, grassy as the barkies tend to be but more forresty and less mustardy than the Harbison. Next was Eligo from Jasper Hill. Washed rind goat and cow milk blend. Texturally perfect right now, softer than a semi-soft, but not yet an ooze. Tang and butter and a smack of pungency. Then we got some Milton Creamery Old Style Reserve that I almost hesitate to mention because I don’t want folks who are reading to buy out my supply. This is a 15 month version that is much more classically sharp and less sweet than the Prairie Breeze. On top of that I got a great deal on a bunch of Comte over 15 month from distros that didn’t sell as many as planned for the holidays. Different affineurs and different ages but all that would usually retail at about 50% higher than we can sell ’em at for the next month.
And I say it was a fun day even though the first customer was another about-to-move-away old-timer who has shopped at the store longer than I have worked there. I’ve never had too many conversations with her but she was always there at 9:15 every Saturday morning and I’d see her at political demonstrations sometimes. I think all of us who work with the public attach things to customers that may or not be accurate but seeing her every week because kind of a ritual everything-is-right-in-the-world moment years ago. Our short interactions continued to ground me even during the everything-is-getting-worse-in-the-world era we’ve been in since March. I will miss her.
And it was a great day even though I interacted with my first real-life COVID denier in a long time. She did that fake sympathy tactic, trying to “empathize” about how confusing and arbitrary COVID rules are and how tough it must be for us to work in this environment. She knew this well because she had been traveling most of the last year.** I told her, and I really feel this, that although there are some rules I don’t think make sense I am glad to live in SF which has the lowest death rate of any big city in the US.*** She rolled her eyes at this and started telling me a hard-to-follow story about her friend in Reno who claimed the tests were being faked because by his calculations the car lines were too short to add up the total blah blah blah.
Happy, as always, to work in a worker-cooperative I cut her off and said, “You know…. that kinda sounds like bullshit to me.”
Whatevs. Those dumb theories are less and less potent as the vaccine becomes reality and numbers go down. My tier can sign up for vaccines in about a week in SF. Deniers and anti-maskers are still dangerous and stupid, but the day is coming when they can be re-categorized as sad cranks who deserve our pity rather than destructive sociopathic super-spreaders.
I still long for the day when it makes sense to offer samples to customers so we can talk cheese with the same flavors in our mouths, but everything about yesterday made me feel like that day will come. After nearly a year of twice the work and none of the fun, I needed that vision.
*My old Berlin anarcha-feminist friends insisted this is a direct translation of a German saying about not being jerk bragging about things you have when others have less.
**The first red flag.
***Not sure this is still true because the last time I see this reported is October, but the logic is still true.