Day 5, Sunday March 22

I don’t know about you, but I started my Christmas shopping yesterday. 

I bought a gift certificate at my favorite restaurant, Mandy’s Café.  

Today I got another at Columbia Mercantile – by phone. And I may be in touch with a few more of my friendly neighborhood stores as Dec. 25 creeps inexorably closer. 

Not bad for a guy who normally starts his Christmas shopping on Dec. 20. But, no, I have not become one of those super-organized, anal-retentive types who months ahead gets everything planned down to the minute. In fact I view those people with a strange mix of envy and loathing. 

But I have my reasons for joining their very orderly, buttoned-down ranks now. 

Yes, we shut-ins can all bitch about how tough this in-home quarantine has been. 

But as grindingly difficult as reading books, watching old movies and having the same oatmeal every day for breakfast might be for us social distancers, the stay-at-home orders are far, far more devastating for local business owners and their employees. 

Virtually all of Columbia’s stores are closed. I took a drive down Yankee Hill Road to get some gas this afternoon. Main Street was dead empty. All it needed were a few blowing tumbleweeds and it could again be a movie ghost town. 

So our town’s businesses need all the help they can get. So, although my retirement account is evaporating as I write this piece, I want to do my part. So I’m becoming a poor man’s Santa for a few days.  

Day 6, Monday, March 23

So I’m taking my daily Yankee Hill walk with Lil when I come to Bobbi’s place. 

She and her partner, Mike, have been friends for decades.  So we have the standard intimate conversation in these days of Corona – shouted and from 10 feet away. 

Mike’s on his annual surfing pilgrimage to Baja California, so I ask Bobbi how she’s doing, and if there’s anything I can do to help.  As if a 73-year-old, cold-suffering, virus-tested neighbor can do much more than just keeping his distance. 

“Got enough groceries?” I rasp. “Yes,” answers my 79-year-old neighbor.  “I went to Safeway. But you don’t have to.” 

I do a double take. “You can get them delivered,” Bobbi says. 

By two more of our neighbors. 

Claudia Carlson and Lisa Taylor, also Yankee Hillbillies, live up the dirt track from Bobbi. Not only that, but for more than five years this wife-and-wife team have owned Claud’s Market in beautiful downtown Columbia.  

And, now Claud’s will deliver.  But not to just anyone: Only to us geezers and geezerettes in the greater Columbia area. 

Those of you with decent memories might remember that I spent much of yesterday’s entry railing about Columbia’s beloved St. Charles Saloon staying open to potential disease spreaders over the weekend. 

I’m done with that now. And in the interests of balance, it’s time for some good news. 

“We just didn’t want our older people coming into the store and taking the risk,” Claudia says of the store’s new delivery program.  “We want to stay safe and keep our customers safe. We’ve put out a call for volunteer drivers, and I think it’s going to work.” 

But if you’re one of us older folks, don’t volunteer to drive. That’s reserved for the younger, more resilient among us.  “We’ve had a very good response,” says Claudia. “So far nine drivers have signed up”. 

Here’s how it works: Call Claud’s  (532-7511) and give your order. The program’s aimed at folks who are 65 or older or are sick, but no customer will be questioned. When delivery nears, the store will call back, give you a total, take your credit card number, and report an ETA for doorstep delivery. 

When your order shows up, don’t give your good Samaritan bearer of good groceries a hug. Shouted gratitude from 10 feet away will do the trick. 

An array of goods, as well as Claud’s homemade cookies, sandwiches, cinnamon rolls and other specialties are on the to-go list.  

As I am a hopeless sweet tooth, my first order included one chocolate chip and one chocolate-peanut butter cookie. I think they weigh a pound apiece and pack enough calories to power me through several days of “distancing.”

I could get used to this. 

But, clearly, this is not a money-maker for Claud’s. So why bother? 

First off, business has been OK lately. “Hoarders,” laughs Claudia. “We’ve had a lot of them.” 

Also, she can relate to what a lot of her older customers may now be experiencing. 

 “Last year I survived Stage 4 cervical cancer,” explains Claudia, 57. “My immune system still isn’t what it was, so I know all about being sick and at risk.” 

Even now, she stays away from the store’s in-person customers, sequestering herself in the store’s deli section. 

Answers to three final questions:

How far away can I be? “As far as the driver is willing to go,” says Claudia. “But probably not to Jupiter.” 

Can I order toilet paper? We knew you’d ask, but the answer is no. For now. “When we get some in, we’ll start rationing it out in two- or four-roll packs,” says Claudia. 

When will your Geezer’s Diary get back to bad news? I’d say tomorrow, and you can almost bet on it. 

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