How My Local Grocery Store Transformed into East Germany

Our local Lake Jackson H-E-B is getting more insane by the day. It’s astonishing to see our once-friendly neighborhood grocery store transformed into an authoritarian hell-hole. And, like all authoritarian systems, it is at its core devoid of any logic or reason and in fact it operates at blatantly cross-purposes to its stated goal.

Case in point. It was a relatively rare cold and rainy day in Lake Jackson today. I needed just a couple of items for dinner tonight so I went down to HEB as I often do. Instead of allowing us to enter through the one remaining set of open doors into the store (they closed the other entrance), in their infinite wisdom they decided that to help prevent us from getting a cold (Covid-19) they would make us walk IN THE COLD RAIN all the way down to the other end of the (closed) store and then double back through the (outdoor) garden section before we were forced to stand in a line (with stickers on the floor reminding us where we are allowed to stand) and wait – IN THE COLD RAIN – until they decided to allow us to get our carts and go into the store.

So to avoid a cold, they forced us to endure the kinds of conditions (cold and rainy weather) that are almost guaranteed to give us a cold!

And we stood for a good five minutes in this long line waiting for a former bagger or maybe checker (with an armed police officer at her side) to allow us to enter the store. You can see in the photo the next two people in front of me – they came into the store arm in arm, husband and wife. But as soon as they saw the signs they, like sheep, separated from each other the required six feet. They obviously have no understanding of the rationale behind the (absurd) social distancing policy! They just put their heads down and obeyed.

While I was waiting in this long line, in the cold and rain, to be allowed the privilege of entering their store to spend my hard-earned money, I wondered why they were holding us up. What could it be? Was the store totally packed full? Was there a run on ground beef? Beer? Bleach?

But no! All of a sudden this former bagger or checker started waving us through in the most dramatic fashion, as if we were racing for the last helicopter out of Saigon before the fall. RUN RUN RUN!!!!

We got into the store and it was nearly empty. There was absolutely no practical purpose to keeping us waiting in the rain and the cold for the green light to enter the store. It was just on a whim.

The HEB employees who just three weeks ago had treated us as valued customers and consumers, deserving of respect, had suddenly been transformed into Rolfe from the Sound of Music, and our lovely local grocery store with friendly service had been transformed into East Germany.

Suddenly those who formerly served us had all become TSA agents, cogs in the national security wheel. The checkout stations had been transformed into the dodgy convenience stores in the inner city – encased in plexiglass – with surgical-masked employees madly spraying cleaner and disinfectant at a frenzied pace, checkout station to checkout station.

Scowling workers with their surgical masks – “you bastards better do what we say or else!” My little store had been transformed into the worst of commie authoritarianism overnight. And the customers seemed thrilled to be treated badly and pushed around, as they increasingly donned their surgical masks and gloves – “oh how exciting!! Just like in the movies!!!”

All this for a cold virus that has thus far taken a grand total of ONE life in a county of 374,264 people.

This is NOT about a virus!


6:12 pm on April 4, 2020