Toussaint column: Finding the Golden Egg
On March 19, I walked away from my neighbor’s house teary-eyed with a grade AA-jumbo lump in my throat.
I’ve never gotten that choked up over eggs before.
The neighbor who gave me those gorgeous, golden-brown organic eggs said just to “pay it forward.” Still, I left $1.85 in loose change — all I could scare up without leaving my house — in return for her precious gift.
My egg hunt came a month early because of the coronavirus.
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I’ve been self-quarantined since March 8. Aspen, always a petri dish with its hordes of international visitors, had confirmed COVID-19 cases on March 7. I assumed it would arrive downvalley soon, and Garfield County reported its first case March 14.
I’m over 60, and I have two health conditions that make me likely fodder for the grim reaper. But staying home has proved trickier than I envisioned, mostly due to my primary relationship and the need to eat.
As Facebook sometimes proclaims, relationships can be “complicated.” My husband is 89. He can drive, and because he wants to remain useful, he goes to the post office, library and grocery store daily. He’s had two minor strokes, and his doctor encourages him to engage his “executive” brain functions, so I usually endorse those errands.
But not now.
After weighing the risk of contracting COVID-19, we both vowed to shop just once a week. Our good intentions lasted less than 24 hours. During his first foray to City Market, my husband found the store nearly denuded: no bananas, bread, berries or eggs. Because the supply truck was due “in a couple hours,” he checked back again, later the same day.
Somehow, we had quickly morphed from shopping once a week to multiple times daily.
Distressed, I wrote an online “what-should-I-do” post. My lament netted 98 comments in less than a day. I had struck a nerve.
Soon, elders and those with underlying health issues began pestering Carbondale’s City Market to offer a senior shopping hour, akin to those offered by Whole Foods. Various folks got various, inconsistent answers. Repeated inquiries netted sympathetic clucking, confusion and no action.
Meanwhile, I still had no eggs.
Along with Ashley Weitzel, another volunteer from a new Facebook group called “Carbondale CO Mutual Aid,” I began exploring City Market’s online ordering and pickup services. Those options aren’t offered in Carbondale; the closest would be El Jebel.
Ashley tried an outside app called Instacart to order and pick up groceries from the El Jebel City Market and found that it’s not so “insta.” It requires 3-4 days’ lead time.
Online, I griped, “Outside a narrow downtown loop, Carbondale has no in-town bus. We can’t order online but must drive 12 miles round-trip to El Jebel. IF a local senior happens to be tech savvy, IF they can figure out online ordering, IF they can afford a $4.95 ordering fee and IF they can drive to El Jebel, this online ordering and delivery might work.” Given my advantages (being articulate, online, able to walk, having a car and a bit of cash) I could probably manage it. But many seniors can’t.
After a maddening 12-hour day of dead ends, mixed messages and frustration, I decided to contact City Market/Kroger management in Denver. Although my phone messages and emails went unanswered, my online carping did yield eggs. (Not once, but twice: I was given a dozen brown and a dozen white from different neighbors.)
Wholly unbidden, eight friends and strangers also offered to go shopping on my behalf.
Then, in a roundabout way, my quest led to something that will assuredly never happen again: my “scooping” the editor of this newspaper.
A former colleague of mine, a retired writer and publicist, sent me the tough-to-find contact information for Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s nationwide CEO. “Go right to the top,” she advised. I did, and within an hour and a half, I got both phone call and a news release announcing senior shopping hours at City Markets — not only here, but throughout Colorado.
To my astonishment, I learned that my editor at the Post Independent hadn’t gotten the news release, so I happily forwarded it.
It’s hard to say whether I felt more jubilant about sourcing the paper’s lead story, about the appreciative notes I got from seniors all up and down the valley, or about those beautiful eggs.
Among the things I most treasure in this valley is its sense of community. We persevere. We rally. We lend a hand, whether that means digging a stranger’s car out of a snow bank, sheltering a friend during a wildfire, or gifting eggs to a neighbor.
Seems like the Easter Bunny found me early, despite my quarantine.
Nicolette Toussaint lives in Carbondale. Her column appears monthly in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com.
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