The provincial Government of Ontario deems its monopolistic booze distributor, the LCBO, a COVID essential. The government will now look after my spiritual needs. Whew, I’m breathing easier already.
Grocery stores like Loblaw’s, Metro, Food Basics and Farm Boy, they’re government-declared “essentials” during the pandemic lockdown, as well they should be. No argument there. Adding the LCBO outlets to the list? No problem. The province gets my full support on that one.
I shop at the LCBO periodically. Saying “regularly” might give people the wrong idea. I’m sticking with ‘periodically.’
I visited my nearby LCBO recently, a regular visit for my ‘essentials.’ The store had undergone some changes, all relating to ‘rona precautions: taped arrows on the floors, feet decals on the floor to indicate places for standing/waiting/lining up, COVID information signs hanging from the ceilings, all well and good precautions and nondisruptive to my spiritual replenishment.
I readied myself for store entry: multilayered mask, ü; clean latex gloves, ü, protective eyeglasses, ü, zipped up heavy winter jacket, ü. Surgeons entering operating theatres should be so protected.
An LCBO security guard monitored every potential patron at the door. “OK’d, I passed.” All systems go. I activated the automatic door. Whew, my anxiety-riddled worries of being barred entry also passed, disappeared that is. What a relief.
I pulled out a shopping cart. A handbasket wouldn’t accommodate my libation needs. One anxiety lingered. What additions would the government deem ‘essentials’ in the next lockdown announcement? I invoked the boy scout philosophy. They may be history, but their motto still holds: “always be prepared.” I would be.
Like a well-trained puppy, I quickly learned to follow the taped arrows on the floor, the store’s idea of an easy-to-follow navigation system. Down the first aisle. Halfway down the aisle, I encountered an aisles intersection with feet decals on the floor. Why would anyone stop in the middle of an aisle’s intersection? I soon learned more. I am awfully familiar with the layout of my local booze outlet. I know every hidey-hole for each of my preferred spirits. I skipped certain aisles. ONTARIO, never. Marshall Foch-based wines; heaven forbid. ARGENTINA, nah. Malbecs, though a notch above Marshall Foch, are still rejectable. LIQUEURS, nahh. Avoiding sweet libations. CHILE, ahhh. Now you’re talkin’ my tastes, decent wines, good varieties or is that varietals, fairly priced. SCOTCH, oh yes. Angel kisses on the tongue, my drams of choice.
Then boom, a problem. I missed the VODKA aisle. At my position, the arrows pointed the other way. I froze in place. VODKA was the wrong way. I would have to go all the way down one aisle, back up another, to the end of that one, then change to the VODKA aisle to replenish my distilled potato needs. I kicked into high gear. At this pace, the indoor trek could replace my outdoor power walk for the day. However, as every LCBO regular knows: ‘one never rushes through the LCBO.’
I hesitated at an intersection encountering another masked man. His blue mask confirmed COVID protective gear. Topped with a woollen toque, drabbed in a heavy military-grade winter jacket, unzippered as if ready to reach for some weapon though his blue mask attested otherwise, the man said something. It sounded like, “Yeehehe, lohst lahdie?” What? I had no idea what he said through his fabric-masked barrier. I replied, “Yup, you too.” He added what sounded like, “Yurrrr no mahn mrrrr ifffnnn yerrrr nahhht gutchhyrrrr lihst.” Communication, 1; comprehension, 0.
Quickly, I repeated, “Yup, you too,” still clueless as to what the man had muttered. I turned up the aisle fast. Damn. The wrong aisle but I had to escape the masked mumbler. I was too embarrassed to admit I didn’t understand a word he said. Surely it was English. After all, this is Ontario, Canada, where less restrictive immigration laws have added many languages to the social fabric, but English is still dominantly used. I wasn’t certain this man was speaking English. Nevertheless, I scooted away from him.
Two aisles later, after a notable detour, I arrived at the VODKA shelves. I added to my cart and proceeded to the cash counter, a cautionary eye keeping a wary lookout for ‘Mr. Mumbles.’
Finally, the checkout aisle. Lo and behold, “Accchhhh lahdie, ahll dunn affft?” “Yup, you too?” my failsafe response. I was wrong. My reply sounded too much like a question, encouraging him. “Yerrrr gnhuh hrrrrt da pohhhkeht boook wthh ahll thhaht therrrr, lahdie.” Whaaat??? I had absolutely no idea what he was saying to me. I added two words to my failed reply, hoping to quash the further possibility of dialogue, “Yup, you too. See ya.” Fateful words.
As I exited the store and got to my car in the parking lot, again I was assaulted verbally. New words hit me. “Harrrrrh, wehhh meehhhttt agginnn, lahdddieee.” Mr. Mumbles, again. He began removing his mask revealing the thickest, heaviest, coarsest beard I’ve ever seen. No words would ever pass through that bristly barrier. “Beeehhhh seeehhhin’ yaahh ladhddiee,” he mumbled, adding an enthusiastic wave as he grasped the door handle to the beat-up red pickup. That’s when I noticed the decal on the truck’s side window, a decal that explained it all: “Scotland Forever!”
I think my aural comprehension skills need some serious re-examination.