Walmart Social Distancing

Shoppers at Dothan's northside Walmart were recently being monitored as the company implemented new social distancing policies.

Some folks get it.

Some don’t.

And thus, some folks WILL get it, and others won’t.

Living in history

Americans living in the Roaring Twenties, as they called the 1920s decade of prosperity and glee, never saw the historic event coming that we now know as the Great Depression.

Nor did all Americans understand the chapter of history being written as they lived it.

We seem to much better understand the significance and price of war, but other major events of deadly significance? Not so much.

Why, for example, do so many refuse to evacuate from an approaching killer hurricane when they have the means to do so?

Why is it so hard to understand that a tsunami might sneak into shore seeking death like a fast-rising tide instead of barreling toward land with a symbolic giant surf wave visible from miles away?

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a chapter of world history in the writing — meaning, now.

Sadly, too many people ignore history, even when they unknowingly are destined to become a statistic of it.

A smart move

Rick Bragg is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who earned his award for feature writing.

He penned several wonderfully written stories, including one about a church north of Anniston upon which a tornado struck on Palm Sunday years ago, killing many in the congregation.

Rick is also an Alabama boy. Thus, when celebrated NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt was killed while racing in the Daytona 500, Rick knew exactly where to go to write his story for The New York Times.

He went to Walmart.

This past week, I had to go to Walmart to pick up medicines for my parents. It was, as is every visit to Walmart, an interesting experience.

There were those there like me, wearing a mask and gloves, very mindful of an ongoing global coronavirus pandemic killing tens of thousands around the world, including dozens in our own community.

And, there were those bathed in ignorance.

“Lord gawd almighty! You’d think these stupid people thought the end of the world was coming,” I heard one woman proclaim into her cellphone as she laughed at the other two of us on the aisle trying to avoid her like — well, the plague.

Oh, the stories

It wasn’t too many moons ago I called Rick, whom I’ve known for years. It took several rings for him to answer.

“I’m sorry, Troy, I was out fixin’ a fence for my preacher,” the country-boy writing talent and author said.

I couldn’t help but think of Rick during this last Walmart visit. I can only imagine the stories he’d capture if he was still crafting bylines.

Maybe it’d be about the retired Marine, probably in his mid- to late 80s, standing patiently in line at the pharmacy and trying so diligently to honor the 6-foot “social distancing” rule, only to have a big, burly woman from the line next to him see something on the shelf to the other side, cutting right in front of the Marine and brushing up against him as she inconsiderately sashayed her way to what she wanted.

Or maybe it’d be about the freedom the pack of wild kids were enjoying as they took every toy they wanted off the shelf and raced up and down aisles, almost causing one masked, elderly woman to fall as she tried to avoid them with her few meager groceries in hand.

Or maybe it’d be about the rough-and-hardened crew of six sun-drenched and sweaty construction workers who decided to meet near the liquor section and instead of seeking a relaxing end to a day of hard work, chose instead to laugh and critique the fashions of the masks they observed, wearing none themselves, of course.

We can do this

Our leaders have pleaded with us to stay home, and to realize that the coronavirus is indeed a killer disease, whether we are stricken with it ourselves or become unknowing carriers of it and infect others we love.

They ask that we get in, get out quickly when shop we must, and to call ahead for a curbside order.

Words we should heed ... lest ignorance kills us.

Troy Turner is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He can be contacted at and followed on Twitter @troyturnernews.

Troy Turner is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He can be contacted at or followed on Twitter @troyturnernews.

Troy Turner is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He previously served as the news editor in New York for the nation's second largest newspaper company, and as the senior editor at several other news entities around the nation. He is an Auburn alum.

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