No one’s going to be leaning over the pub bar any time soon and ordering a pint of Corona. Time, it seems, has been called on all our social lives for the foreseeable future. The help lines have stopped answering. Even Wayne in Mumbai, who regularly calls, offering to fix my infected computer for a small fee and access to my bank account, has stopped ringing. I hope he’s not coughing.
Social contact has a whole new form.
Mine happened on the phone to #Sainsbury. After half an hour on hold, I spoke to a nice woman who asked me if I was vulnerable. I asked her if there was a blinky category. She said there wasn’t and so I had to settle for vulnerable. Once my profile was altered to reflect my new status, I’d be able to get on line shopping. On Monday I filled up my virtual shopping basket and went to the checkout. I’ve been deleted from the vulnerable shopper list and now I can’t get on line shopping at all. There are no delivery slots.
The Right Hand Neighbour text to say she was off to the supermarket and what did I want. I’m past caring what she thinks as we have lived through our children’s’ teenage years together. Even Victorian built houses leave little to the imagination once a teenager is in full throttle. We’ve been privy to all the outbursts and forced apologies. I didn’t think twice as I added the bottle of sherry to the list. The packet of cheese and onion crisps, I concede, has slightly less cache. She left the bill in the bag and I made a bank transfer.
Coronavirus has turned my usual shopping routines into a dependency on the kindness of others. If you don’t look like your actual swivel eyed cartoon character you don’t make the list and you won’t get past the gauleiter at the supermarket. Then there’s the problem of how to follow the tape marking on the floor. Bumping into people these days gives a whole new meaning to getting up people’s noses. I doubt that if my fellow shoppers see me with my face pressed to the label they will offer me their specs and that well worn joke, “forgot your glasses”. They’re more likely to call for my eviction from a public space.
If you can’t see, being stuck at home isn’t all exchanging WhatsApp messages, about risotto rice stocks, with the neighbours. Poverty and isolation are often natural companions of blindness. For those blind people who have no slack in their resources for a bag of crisps or a bottle of sherry, and who can’t make it round the supermarket, life has just got grimmer. Many of them are dependant on local sight loss organisations for food and social contact. A lot of these services have been withdrawn. They’re not considered key workers and blind people aren’t vulnerable in a lockdown.
Many older blind people have no WI-FI so they can’t activate Alexa with a voice command. They have to do it the old fashioned way. One accidental knock of the radio and it can be silence until the next time someone comes round to visit and can do a re-tune. That might not be for months now. Don’t get me going on medicines.
Every time I hear the WhatsApp pinging a post alert I heave a sigh. How much worse it would be to know that the struggle for food was equally matched by a struggle with silence stretching out before me.
The Right Hand Neighbour, turns a blind eye to my vices and I concede that in the new order I don’t shop.