Who Was That Unmasked Man?

One snowy winter day in Minnesota many years ago, I bundled up my first-born son Gregg, complete with light blue snowsuit, navy fur-lined aviator hat and hand-knitted mitten and headed to the store.  He wasn’t even two-years-old and couldn’t talk in sentences yet, but he noticed that I wasn’t wearing a hat or gloves.  He didn’t like wearing all that winter gear and asked me why I wasn’t wearing it.  I told him, “I have old hands.”  He looked at his hand thoughtfully for a few moments and stated, “Gregg old hands.”

Stunned by his rather complex thought process at a decidedly young age, I realized a few things.  First, clearly this was going to be a difficult child to raise, since he could out think me before he was even able to form sentences.  Second, I’d better come up with better excuses than “old hands”.  But the most important lesson was that I needed to enter the realm of being a role model.  Gregg and his two future siblings were not going to accept the “do as I say, not as I do” mantra.  I needed to teach by example.

So, for the next twenty-five years I led a life of role modeling honesty, integrity, but most importantly compassion.  My children deserved a reliable rock in this crazy world we live in, so I dubbed myself Gibraltar.  It was an exhausting way to live.  But parenting forces you to look outside of your own desires and care about another person’s needs, many times putting those needs ahead of living within your own comfort zone.

So that quarter century lifestyle of discomfort prepared me for the pandemic mask requirement.  I didn’t have a mask at the beginning.  With the shortage, it seemed that health-care workers had a greater need and my hopeless lack of sewing and craft skills kept me from creating my own.  Actually, it was my son Gregg who gave me a mask, since I’m around high risk individuals and have been the designated grocery shopper, thereby potentially exposing them through me to the virus. 

To be perfectly honest, if the mask was just for my protection, I wouldn’t wear it.  It’s hot, scratchy and uncomfortable.  My eye glasses fog up at times, leading me to hold my breath as I quickly attempt to read the best by date on the items that I’m purchasing at the grocery store.  At the check-out, same problem, holding my breath while typing in my debit card PIN.  Life would seem to be so much more comfortable without the mask, but then I look around at all the vulnerable people in the store and how the number of deaths from this virus are escalating.  How comfortable would I be knowing that my selfishness could expose others to a deadly virus? 

It’s difficult for me to understand why leaders are refusing to wear the mask and role model a reasonable method to protect human life.  Is it vanity?  Fear of having one’s hair mussed or makeup smudged?  Maybe they feel that it diminishes their role as leaders.  Do religious leaders believe that somehow God loves and protects them more than other people?  This is an extremely dangerous belief, since God loves to teach humility and dying alone, unable to breathe, is a most humbling way to end a life.  Maybe these leaders weren’t active parents and never needed to put another person’s health and safety ahead of their own personal interests.

But Marty and I have decided to embrace our current masked existence.  This morning we left the house with our Fleet Farm list, half-filled coffee mugs, cell phones and face masks.  As we stood on the front stoop, both of us noticed a teenager on the sidewalk.  His eyes grew wide with fear and surprise at our unexpected entrance and he signaled with his hands to his buddy who was rifling through our Ford Explorer in the driveway.  Where was a policeman when you needed one? Luckily for us he was pulling up to the 3-way stop on the corner.  He drove after the two, but wasn’t able to catch them, although he did recognize one of them.  So our morning outing was delayed as we visited with the officer and filed the complaint.  Did we feel fearful or violated by this experience?  Not really.  That came later in the morning when we finally made it to Fleet Farm. 

Quite a few people were shopping, some with small children and even dogs.  What was missing from this scene were face masks and social distancing.  A few of us were wearing masks to protect other people in the store, especially the young children as they too are facing fatal consequences from this virus.  We don’t know if we are carriers and we certainly don’t want other people to pay the consequences if we are simply two of those lucky people who don’t suffer symptoms from the virus. The loud speaker periodically came on, telling shoppers how much Fleet Farm cares about their health and instructing them to please practice social distancing.  But very few of the workers were wearing face masks and no one, not Fleet Farm employees or shoppers were making any serious attempt to practice social distancing.  “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work.  We did our best to distance ourselves, got through the store and checkout in record time, packed up the old Explorer, took off our masks and headed home. 

Hi Ho and away!  Hopefully, off to survive another day.

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Are you the type of person who writes little notes to yourself so that you can write a letter, a blog, or an article later?  I want to say that I’m that person, but I’m not.  It’s not from a lack of desire to be more organized; it’s just that my mind won’t let me slow down enough to remember where I was before I made the note.  It’s a sign of getting older.

I have questions.  Over the past few months, I have built up a memory of items that I need to get out of my head. 

This blog began when I read a May 9th article from Carol Hunter, the Des Moines Register’s executive editor.  Ms. Hunter was explaining why the Register used the word “approximately” when reporting the number of COVID19 cases in Iowa.  Her response to a writer:

It turns out that there was a math discrepancy in the numbers the state had reported that morning. The number of total cases in Iowa to date that it reported was five fewer than the number of new cases added to the previous day’s total. Math errors happen. Our staff decided, correctly I believe, to report the “nearly 400” estimate until the discrepancy could be resolved.

But hey, math errors cannot happen with the Iowa Caucuses?  The difference in numbers being counted – caucuses vs. Coronavirus cases – is huge.  If it can’t keep a small number like 400 accurate, the Register should move out of its glass house.  It was the media leader in beating the dead horse with stories about inaccurate counts of the caucuses?

That’s just an observation.

Rule 12 of the Iowa Rules Regarding Lobbyists states: “A lobbyist shall not cause or influence the introduction of any bill or amendment for the purpose of being employed to secure its passage or defeat.”  Basically, that’s what lobbyists do. 

Several years ago, Stephanie and I approached the Ethics Committees in both the Iowa House and Iowa Senate.  We suggested a language change since the Rule 12 sentence was confusing.

The reply we received was that everyone knows what that sentence means, so there’s no need to change it.  Well, shortly after that, a new agency was born, and the first executive director of the agency was the lead lobbyist in creating the agency.  We asked the committees for clarification.  Did the lobbyist “cause or influence the introduction of” the bill creating the agency “for the purpose of being employed”?  No, supposedly, that’s not what it means.  Then, what in hell does it mean?

That’s just an observation.

I received my absentee ballot this past week.  I will have voted by the time this is posted.  Iowa’s very own stable genius, the Iowa Secretary of State, has provided instructions on completing my absentee ballot.

Instruction #3 states [in bold]:

If a secrecy envelope was provided, place the voted ballot in the secrecy envelope.  If no secrecy envelope was provided, go to step 4. 

Step #4 says to [also in bold]:

Place the voted ballot or the secrecy envelope containing the voted ballot in the return affidavit envelope.

I’m smart enough to figure it out, but wouldn’t it have been less confusing to use fewer words in step #4, such as: “Place the voted ballot in the return affidavit envelope”?  The instructions already indicated what to do if a secrecy envelope was provided.

That’s just an observation.

Now, I’m observing the media again.  There are several stories about face masks; who’s wearing them and who is not.  What about gloves?  I feel that gloves are more important than face masks. 

Granted, wearing a face mask may protect you from touching your face, but doesn’t it work both ways – protecting others from your projections, and protecting you from bad breath?  The hands are the instruments that touch things other people have touched.

Consider this.  You go to the grocery store and you are wearing your mask.  Good for you.  However, you pick up a can of green beans and you’re not wearing gloves.  How do you know that can of beans has not been picked up and put back in place by someone without gloves who is symptomatic?  Huh?  They could have coughed while holding that can of beans.  Now, their tiny little virus babies on are your hands.  You can go home and wash your hands, but the little baby viruses are on the steering wheel, the door to the house, etc.  Alternatively, you can rip those gloves off after walking out of the store and throw them in a trash receptacle that should be placed somewhere near the front door of the store. 

I think gloves are more important than masks, but that’s just an observation.

Finally, many people have now watched the Jimmie Kimmel film where he shows Vice President Pence moving empty boxes to the front door of a nursing home.  [Don’t look for it; it’s been taken down.]  USA Today conducted a fact check and discovered that those boxes were not empty.  That’s great investigative work!

However, the fact check story is missing some very prominent gaffes in the photo op.  First of all, that’s all it was – a photo op.  What purpose did the photo op serve?  That VP Pence is hard at work personally delivering Personal Protection Equipment?  I applaud him for finding a real job, but he was not wearing gloves (see statement above); he was not wearing a mask; he was at the front door of a nursing home where the rest of America cannot get within a sidewalk away; none of the supporting staff with him were wearing masks or gloves; and they were all grouped together – not six feet apart.  But the boxes were not empty.

It wasn’t that long after the photo op that two of his staff and several secret service agents tested positive.  I’m thinking: maybe the boxes weren’t empty, but the nursing home might have been.  If not, it might be today.  But . . .

that’s just an observation.

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Order Up

In the Army, written formal orders from above can be good; they can be bad.  When you’re not expecting orders, they can be like getting a notice from the Internal Revenue Service, it will make your stomach feel uneasy.  Upon being told to report to the captain’s office, I was very apprehensive.  When I arrived and was told the captain had orders for me, all I could do was hold my breath.  I received orders to go to typing school on base.  For two weeks, I learned how to type.  I got up to forty words a minute.

Upon graduation from typing school, Sergeant Bush said, “Ryan, I’m going to make you the mess hall clerk.” 

I can only guess what brought this about.  I had enrolled in an online sociology course with the University of Wisconsin.  My first paper submitted was returned with a grade of C+.  Oh, come on.  It was better than that.  I was expecting nothing less than an A.  So, I quit.  But it could be that enrolling in a class was a tip to the brass that I was looking for a challenge.  Being a mess hall clerk wasn’t much of a challenge, but it did take more intelligence than making salads.

The job had its advantages.  I would remain housed with the cooks in a separate wing of the building.  That means I didn’t have to fall out for roll call in the morning.  No longer would I have to wear cook whites, which never seemed to fit properly.  There was no problem fixing my own plate and doing so before anyone got in line.  I could sleep in and go to work whenever I wanted, as long as it wasn’t too late, which meant getting to the mess hall about five minutes before Sgt. Bush.

Sergeant Bush was a heavy man.  If you’re any sort of a football fan, you may be familiar with Andy Reid, the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs (my favorite pro football team).  Sgt. Bush didn’t wear glasses, but he resembled Coach Reid in just about every respect.  He was smart, funny, firm in his ways, and he had a great nose for talent – my opinion.

One hot, humid, suffocating July afternoon, Sgt. Bush was talking about how he wanted the mess hall dining room air conditioned.  I was talking to the supply sergeant one day, and he brought up how much he would like to have his own coffee so that he wouldn’t have to keep walking over to the mess hall (30 feet away).  Sgt. Rodriquez was a rotund Hispanic about 5-feet tall.  He had a thick mustache and wore black-rimmed glasses.  He could be intimidating; most people working in supply are intimidating – they have something you want.  But I wasn’t just going to give him the coffee.  I noticed his office was air-conditioned.  I made an offer.  I would give him a 30-lb. tin of coffee for the air conditioner.  I thought he would talk me down, but he didn’t.  He readily gave up the air conditioner.  I went back to the mess hall and picked up a full, unopened 30-lb. tin of coffee like it was mine and brought it right over to him.  I helped him take the air conditioner out of the window and hefted it by myself back to the mess hall.  Sgt. Bush scratched his head and laughed so hard the cigar fell out of his mouth.  I purchased a large window air conditioner with a 30-lb. can of coffee.  He had a couple of guys on KP install it in our little window about 8 foot off the ground.  Might as well, no one could look out the window anyway.  It wasn’t a panacea for cooling the dining room, but it did have a positive effect on everyone who ate and worked there.

A few days after acquiring the air conditioner, I had noticed that Sgt. Rodriquez had a new air conditioner in his window.  Someday, when he needed more coffee, I would get that one, too.  Evidently, there was no shortage of them. 

The fact that I could operate like Radar O’Reilly came in handy when our mess hall was one of a handful of mess halls throughout the country chosen to experiment with a new program.  At the time, a mess hall was given so much food based upon the number of soldiers fed.  It was rationed.  If you served 100 GIs for lunch, you would receive approximately 110 hamburgers for a lunch on a specific day.  110 hamburger buns, and so on.  For dinner, you might receive 110 pork chops.

The pilot program in which we were selected to participate in was devised to allow the mess sergeant and mess clerk to order whatever food it felt it needed to acquire, to accurately feed the estimated number of soldiers.  We were allotted a specific amount per soldier for breakfast, a little more for lunch, and more for dinner.  For example:  if the 260th Quartermaster Battalion was feeding 100 soldiers for breakfast on Monday, we might receive one-hundred dollars in allotted credit to shop at the warehouse.  Perhaps we would have 125 to feed at lunch on the same day.  At a pretend ration of two-dollars per person, we would add two-hundred fifty dollars to our credit.  If we fed only 30 soldiers for dinner because it was payday, we would presumably receive ninety dollars for a three-dollar credit per person fed.  For that day, we would have earned four-hundred and forty dollars.  We could spend up to $440 at the warehouse on anything we wanted.  We could get $440 worth of mustard if we wanted.  (Probably be court martialed the following day, but we could.)

Sgt. Bush devised a plan.  At breakfast, where turnout for meals was larger than the other two meals, we would ask each soldier to sign all three sheets for the day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  At lunch, we would ask the soldiers in line if they signed at breakfast.  If not, we would ask them to sign the lunch register and the dinner register.  Same thing at dinner.  Not one GI complained.  Sgt. Bush said that if someone did complain, make sure they knew that they were eating in a special mess hall with all the trimmings.  They could go back to the old way if they wanted to take the complaint higher.  It was never necessary.

Our mess hall had great food.  We had two staff sergeants, one on each shift, who were chefs at high-class restaurants before entering the service (one in Baltimore; the other in Boston), and because of that, most cooks spent their time cleaning.  We were selected as “Best Mess on Post” 12 of 13 months I was there.  The food was excellent; the place was spotless; and, because we could order what we thought would provide a better variety of dishes based on the pilot program, more and more servicemen wanted to eat with us rather than go to town.  The program allowed us to serve steak more often than other mess halls, and the steaks were prepared to order – unlike the others who cooked each steak thoroughly and plopped it on your plate.

When all the other mess halls on base were having beans and rice, we were offering a choice.  You could get a hamburger with French fries, or you could have beans and rice, or you could have a chef’s salad.  Our mess hall was a destination spot for dining on base.

We also had a guy from Washington, DC.  He was the best fry cook I had ever seen.  He could accurately keep track of whose breakfast order was up, even when he had six or eight orders in front of him.  Each egg was cooked exactly as the person requested it.    

Trays with bowls on them, each bowl containing two eggs, were set next to the grill.  When you were in front of him, he knew whether you had the scrambled, the over-easy, or even the poached. 

One morning, when he yelled out “next man, how do you want your eggs?” the person in line replied, “you say ‘sir’ to me!”  Without looking up to see that it was a lieutenant colonel, he quipped back: “Sir, this is an enlisted man’s mess.  Next man, how do you want your eggs?”  I could barely believe it.  I was standing a little behind the counter when it occurred.

The officer was pissed.  He went back to Sgt. Bush’s office.  I was free to follow since that was also my office.  I didn’t want to miss this.  Sgt. Bush was firm.  He stood behind his cook.   “Yes, this is an enlisted man’s mess hall.  If you want to eat somewhere where you want to be called ‘sir’ ya’all will have to eat at the Officer’s Club.”  Sgt. Bush was right, and the LG knew it.  We got a lot of officers eating in our mess hall.  We had a petty cash box by the registers, and, besides the LG that thought he could push power in the breakfast line, they all paid and mixed in with enlisted men. 

Cooks were some of the most powerful people in the Army.  If you like what you’re eating; if it’s better than the Officer’s Club; if it’s less expensive than the Officer’s Club; then you shouldn’t mess with a good thing.  (Pun intended.)

NOTE:  It has since been changed, but in the in the 1960s and early 1970s, the word MESS was an acronym for Meals Essential for a Soldiers Sustenance.

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That First Job

Upon writing a blog about the Coronavirus in packing houses, not too many people are aware of my extensive background in the meat packing industry.  It’s not a career I would choose, but it was one I fell into. 

My first job was mowing lawns in the quiet little town of Vail, Iowa.  Most of my clients were little old ladies, and occasionally a little old lady and her husband.  A lot of those clients invited me in for a Coke and a cookie when I had finished mowing their yard.  Although I’m a Coke drinker now, I was a Pepsi drinking as an adolescent.  And those homemade cookies were awful.  I swear every one of them had raisins in them.  I’m not a big fan of raisin.  But I ate the cookies and drank the Coke from a glass with too much ice in it.  Those clients loved me because I trimmed as well as mowed.  Other kids in town trying to compete with me didn’t understand that fast is not always the best method of making money.  I was making close to sixty dollars a week throughout the summer of 1964.

That fall, as the mowing business was winding down, Marvin Rehbein, the owner of Marvin’s Provisions, approached me and asked me if I would be interested in working for him.  I didn’t even ask what salary he planned on paying me, I told him I would have to check with my mom.  Of course, she was thrilled.  I wasn’t so sure.  I was making more money mowing lawns, and the shoveling snow season was around the bend.  Shoveling snow was a lucrative business for a young entrepreneur like me.  Also, when the streets and sidewalks were covered in ice from an ice storm, I slipped on a pair of skates (I had 3 pair: hockey, figure, and roller) and skated to stores and back to old people’s houses to deliver groceries, salt, and mail, making some easy money. 

Reluctantly, I chose to work at Marvin’s.  I worked two to three hours after school and eight hours or more on Saturdays.  I made twenty dollars a week.  I began work at 4:00 pm, or whenever I could get there after getting off the bus, going home, changing clothes, and running the three blocks to get there.  I began wrapping beef.  That meant accumulating so many huge wax-coated wrapping bags, and slipped each bag from the bottom of the meat hanging on a rail, over the front, back, or cut, folding it over, and placing a clip toward the top to hold it on.  The bags came in four sizes:  front quarter, hind quarter, chuck, and loin.  Using a black wax pen, I had to legibly write on the wrapper the name of the customer.  It was cold in the cooler, and the cooler fans were powerful.  It was like working outside in a blizzard. 

Marvin always had two high school students working for him.  Before me, there was Bob Steadman, and Laird Vergith.  Bob worked with the other men out front while Laird wrapped the beef and conducted the dirty work on cleanup.  When Bob went on to college, Laird moved up and I was the younger guy that had to wrap the beef and perform the dirty work on cleanup. 

During the summer I got to work every day.  It was the same old thing: 

“Go get me a 14-17 pork loin.” 

“Wash this out.” 

“Help the ladies out front.” 

Half of the building was the wholesale meat company; the other half was a grocery store.  Often, I was called up front, as they called it, to help bag groceries, carry out groceries, or even assist the delivery truck with unloading staples into the hallway (between the grocery store and barber shop next door).

The senior high school kid was also responsible for cutting a specific item for the grocery store’s meat case once the full-time staff and Marvin headed down the street for a drink or a beer.  For instance, Daisy Lidgett would come in a little before closing and want five pounds of ground beef, or a chicken cut up for her restaurant up the street.  At least once a week, some guy who thought he was a wheeler and dealer, would come in after sitting in the bar a few doors down and want a steak cut much different than the ones we had in the meat display case.  Without failing, they always settled for less than what we knew was already in the meat case.  It’s pointless to argue with a drunk.

When Laird moved on, I became the senior high school kid.  That also meant that I would now get to take the Ford Econoline (which was nicknamed the Weeny Wagon) out to the Vail Dump to unload all the day’s trash and start it on fire.  That was the highlight of the afternoon – any afternoon.  Unfortunately, Marvin eventually contracted with Mick Niehaus to haul away trash and the trips to the dump were over. The high school kid to follow me was Marvin’s son, Cory.  He didn’t work out.  He was trouble from the beginning.  Because his dad was the owner, he thought he could do anything he wanted.  Boy, was he wrong!

One evening, the Niehaus boys and their dad loaded up the truck with the day’s trash.  Bob and Rod were giving Cory a hard time, as I think most teenagers did.  Cory took a huge handful of bone meal from the meat saw and threw it at them, just as they were closing the dock doors.  Splat!  The bone meal hit the doors and splattered all over the place; most of the place I had finished cleaning.  I instructed him to clean it up.  He told me “no”!  I said he was going to clean it up or else.  “Or else, what?” He snapped back at me.  One thing led to another and I punched him in the nose.

He went crying to his mom, holding his hands over his mouth.  His mom was the head bookkeeper.  She came out of her office and immediately fired me.  “Okay,” I said.  I was standing next to the time clock.  I punched out (no pun intended). 

Marvin came into the store as I was getting my work apparel hung up.  He asked Cory and Helen what happened and came to me as I was heading out the back door.  He didn’t even ask me for my side of the story.  He asked me to punch back in, finish cleaning up, and that I should expect to be back at work the next day.  I never saw Cory again. As far as I know, I was the last high school kid to work at Marvin’s.

Marvin Rehbein was the fairest man I have ever known.  He was the father I had wanted, having lost mine when I was 6-years-old.  Marvin was covertly adopted by me.  I would do just about anything he asked.  The tables turned a few years later, but that is a blog for a later date.

Cory, who with his sister, was adopted by Marvin and Helen from the country of Greece when they were infants.  Today, Cory is using his birth name as he sits in a maximum-security prison in Tecumseh, NE, serving a life sentence for killing a man in Omaha.  Sometimes, I pray for him.

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Easter Shoes

Last Saturday, Stephanie was going to the store and asked if I needed anything.  In my world, need and want are the same thing.  I decided against asking for another thirty-eight-ounce package of M&Ms.  But it was the day before Easter, and I haven’t had the Easter Bunny show up in years.  I have to get candy on my own.

Easter brought up a fond memory.  As a child, I recall having to polish shoes the evening before Sunday morning Mass.  The shoes were placed by the basement walk-out door.  One year, there was a clothes dryer in the way. After shining shoes, my brothers and I went outside to pick some rye and fescue grass from the yard and make a little nest for the Easter Bunny.  I had made my nest right next to the new dryer.  It seems as though the Easter Bunny always brought the same damned hard boiled eggs we had colored the afternoon before.  I’m not sure that chocolate eggs were invented, yet.

It’s that clothes dryer that sparked an Easter memory. 

Mom had one of those washers that consisted of a big tub, with an agitator in the middle.  She had to use a stick to pull the clothing from the tub and push it through the wringer attached to the top of the tub.  To rinse, you repeated the process after draining the dirty the water and replenishing with clear, clean warm water.  Mom would have a rag she used to wipe off the metal wires of the clothesline, and with the basket of clean clothes, hung them on the line to dry.  It was a lot of work.  We take laundry for granted compared to that era.

One year, Mom got a dryer.  It’s one of those events you barely notice or remember, but I’m sure it was one of Mom’s greater memories.  It wasn’t there very long.  One day coming home from school, it was no longer in the basement by the door.  I never thought anymore about it.

Talking to Mom one day later in our lives, she told me the tale about the dryer.  She had bought it on a payment plan from our local hardware store.  After having it a month or so, she had to let it go back to the store.  Her boys needed shoes.  It was the dryer or shoes.  Mom went back to wiping down the clothesline, fighting the wind, rain, snow (yes, snow), and other elements like a neighbor mowing the lawn, a dirty dog roaming the area, etc.  I had no idea.

Several years later, she got that dryer back, along with a modern wash machine, but I don’t like the circumstances.  Mom went on with the story.  She had contacted our parish priest to see if the church could help.  The priest told Mom it was about time she got remarried.  Mom talked about it, calmly.  I was furious.  I was losing faith in the Catholic Church as it was, this information was a bit more straw on the camel’s back.  Unfortunately, marriage was the eventual solution she took to combat poverty. 

Since that conversation with Mom, I have given almost every year to the Goodwill of the Great Plains Shoe and Mitten Party in Sioux City.  No child should have to have a mother choose between shoes and keeping the family clean without spending an entire day doing so.  More importantly, every child should own a good pair of shoes, whether shined or not.

I’ll get my supply of M&Ms replenished this week.  Maybe I have to go outside and pull up some grass hoping for that chocolate egg.  I wonder if creeping Charlie would work.

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Risky Business

After a few weeks of this hibernation practice propelled by the coronavirus pandemic, I decided to take some risks.

Last week, I washed my hands a couple times for only nineteen seconds.

I saw a crowd of nine people, so I walked up to join them.  Hey, it’s perfectly legal.  Had there been ten, I would have been pushing it a little.  While in the crowd I thought I would have some fun by sneezing and coughing.  It wasn’t long before I was standing by myself. 

Never was there more fun than bringing my own package of toilet paper to the store and placing in it a shopping cart.  I pushed all around the aisles with people staring at me.  Some even asked where I found it.  I directed them through some doors that said “employees only” and told them it was in a truck on the loading dock. 

I’ve also sawed off a six-foot one by one piece of wood and marked foot increments on it.  I carry it out in front of me and swing it by my side to keep everyone six feet away. 

Actually, you should know by now that this is an April Fools message.  Please, do not try this at home without adult supervision. 

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