the illusion of choice

Dear internet,

So we’re not supposed to leave our houses for the next two weeks.

I like working on logistics. Give me a travel itinerary and I will spend many happy hours trying to maximize efficiency. I love trying to find the best laser printer in terms of time/money. I enjoy tracking packages online and spend airline flights poring over the map portion of the in-flight magazine.


As a child I always wanted to be Very Well Prepared, so I read Hints with Heloise* and devoured articles with life tips like how to survive falling overboard on a boat with just your boots as a personal flotation device, or how to fix a toilet without calling the plumber. (Am I a logistics person or more of a MacGuyver at heart?)


You would think that the whole grocery store situation** would be thrilling for me. But, it is not. You can’t maximize efficiency when there are no controls and all the choices keep changing. It’s like going to a casino thinking you are going to make money.


Here are the choices:

  • Go to the grocery store exposing yourself and others to germs BUT you know what is on the shelves and can improvise if needed. No organic chicken breast? That’s fine, warm Spam sammies for all!


  • Wait a week for delivery. Almost impossible to get delivery and it involves setting a 3 am alarm to try to get a spot. Hope that when you do get your groceries they have what you want, because if they don’t, you will be down to dried beans and canned pineapple.


  • Go to the only grocery store that has same-day pick-up. Which sounds so convenient! Almost…too easy. Oh, I see that grocery store is right next to the mass Covid-19 testing center.


Which one will I choose? Which one would you choose?




*Until Hints from Heloise got crappy, when she started publishing “tips” like “Tupperware is a good way to store food. Make sure you put the lid on the container so the food doesn’t dry out!”


  • ** We are not supposed to leave the house at all for the next two weeks, not even to grocery shop, although the exact reason why seems somewhat unclear. Some people are like, “this will kill the virus in its tracks!” and others are like, “if you get sick this week, you will die.” I am not a hobby epidemiologist so I guess maybe everyone is right? But maybe they are wrong?

    safeway delivery truck on the map
    Watching the grocery truck make its deliveries is like tracking santa claus

Special delivery

Dear internet,

So in Coronavirusville, packages are a problem. Everyone’s afraid of catching covid-19 from the mail. My building stopped having people sign for packages. In fact they want to keep people out of the lobby so they now deliver packages straight to people’s doors. I even stopped taking il Bambino to the mail room, which is a bummer because she loves opening the mailbox and pulling out the mail.

I had to return an online purchase, which I had made in the pre-COVID-19 days. I had a pre-printed label, but I couldn’t just leave it in the mail room. I would have to go to [Undisclosed Package Store] to mail it, or find a drop-box, or hand it to a delivery person.

I put the package under my stroller and walked around the neighborhood with it, trying to screw up the courage to go inside the [Undisclosed Package] store.

While walking the back streets of neighborhood, I spotted an [Undisclosed Package Store] truck trundling down the street. The workers were tossing packages from the back of the truck out to a runner on the street who was dropping the packages on doorsteps. Aha! I held up my package.

“Can you guys mail this?”

They shrugged and reached out.

I tossed to the truck from my spot on the sidewalk, they caught it, and voila—the package was on its way back to the warehouse.

Socially distanced shipping. Thanks dudes.



usps truck on street
clearly not DC, but isn’t it nice

Every day, the virus creeps closer.

Dear internet,

Every day, the virus creeps closer.

Or at least that’s how it feels.

when people are socially distancing at six feet, you overhear a lot of conversations

“He has trouble swallowing, but fortunately that’s not a symptom…”

“Do you want to run with us?” says a mom to a neighbor across the street. Her daughters have already started sprinting down the sidewalk.

“My master bedroom is north-facing,” a man tells a woman. “The street side. So I get the most amazing view of the trees.”

“So one of the first symptoms is, you lose your sense of smell,” explains a man in wire-rimmed glasses to his kindergartner on a tricycle.

Couples yoga on front walks—people just put their yoga mats down.

People are desperate to get out, to interact with other people. We are herd animals.



P.S. An update

pajamas in public

Dear Internet,

Quite a lot of people are wearing pajamas in public now. It kind of takes you off guard, like, are they sick with coronavirus and are feverishly walking the streets, looking for supplies?

But then you remember, oh yeah, everyone’s working from home, people are really taking advantage of the opportunity to not wear khakis and dress shoes and carry giant backpacks and bright lunch sacks. I haven’t seen a lanyard with an ID badge in a whole week.



a very quiet Monday morning

Dear internet,

It’s a very quiet Monday morning.

I didn’t wake up until 8 am, and that was just because the garbage trucks were out, beeping and backing up.

Thank goodness there are still garbage trucks in DC.

The mayor of DC had to cut off the streets around the Tidal Basin because people were not socially distancing. Probably for the best. The blossoms are an elbow-to-elbow event most years. That said, there must be a Texan in DC who could come up with a great plan to have people drive through the blooms.

This is a photo from a February before Covid-19. Can anyone guess where it was taken? It was taken at 3 pm on a weekday.

The garden cafe at the NGA scuplture garden
Where was I?
Hover over the picture for the answer!