New to Waco: The few, the brave, the early morning Wal-Mart shoppers

What does it feel like to be new to Waco?  What would a new person notice about our town?  What’s it like to try to find your place in our community?  Ferrell Foster is moving to Waco from Georgetown to become a part of the Prosper Waco team.  In this blog series he will share some of his experiences as a Waco newbie.  What will we see when we look at Waco through his fresh eyes?  Read along to find out!  To see all the posts in this series, click here: New to Waco. – ALW

By Ferrell Foster

Cue “Jaws” soundtrack. It’s early Sunday — 6:41. My daughter and I enter the “water.” No one else is in the “water;” they’re sitting safely on the “beach” (in their cars). It’s Walmart. We’re first in line.

Gradually others jump in, keeping at least six feet apart. We must look especially threatening; the guy behind us opts for 12 feet of unsocial distance.

Walmart employees buzz around beyond the closed glass doors. They all wear facemasks, but one guy, who kind of acts important, has his mask down on his chin — a rebel, for sure. Required to mask-up, he’s being passive aggressive in his resistance.

Doors open. Our presence is tallied on a digital tablet. The worker’s mask remains low, but my daughter and I are properly masked and rush past him to retrieve a freshly disinfected shopping cart. (No disinfectant injections offered.)

As a “high risk” person, it’s my first visit to a Walmart since things got dangerous. It’s also my first visit to a Waco area Walmart.

The other shoppers must be behind us, but I don’t look back. We are on a quest, and it’s important to keep your eyes forward while on quest. I’m reminded of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” — unsuspecting dangers lurk. We have no coconuts to clap together, but we move with purpose.

There is actually a sign marking the aisle where the grail should be. An obstacle! Not a physical one, merely a message on the floor — “Do Not Enter.” It’s a one-way aisle; we are supposed to go around. A long-time rule follower, I want to detour, but my daughter doesn’t hesitate and she knows this routine better than me. (She’s been my designated COVID-era buyer.) I follow.

I’ve heard the stories and seen the pictures of empty shelves, and there they are down the length of the left side — nothing. But wait. In the distance, there’s something different. Can it be? Yes, it is. The grail is there. I wonder if others are going to rush past us to reach it. But, no, it’s all a rather tame scene. We pick up our one package of toilet paper and proceed to the less-exciting parts of my first Waco shopping adventure.

Having missed the early days of pandemic shopping, I feel I have missed something. I have only one rather lame story to share while others recount thrilling tales of when there really was a toilet paper shortage… of which there really was not one.

Walmart shopping came back to me pretty quickly.  Like riding a bike.  Or more specifically like riding a bike as an adult after years of four-wheeling with a motor attached.

We got most of what we needed and some of what we wanted. And we left some digital money with the nice lady cashier. Another worker even bagged some of our groceries before suddenly disappearing mid-bagging.

I think it’s healthy to have some fun with tough times, but we all know these have been some very difficult days for many people and the struggles are not over. Our community has lost four of our residents, including a school principal, and others have barely escaped the virus’s death grip.

Our health care workers are exhausted. They’ve endured the physical challenges of long hours and dangerous circumstances. They’ve had trouble finding childcare, and they’ve worried about bringing home the virus to the people they love. I cannot fathom what this has been like for them, but I try and I cheer.

My sister-in-law is a health care worker in another town, and she has been in my thoughts and prayers a great deal. She’s had it rough at times, but I’ve noticed on Facebook that she also has had time for some laughs with her fellow heroes.

So I write these rather fun and frivolous words not because I do not hurt for those who have sacrificed so much but because in the midst of all of this it doesn’t hurt to smile.

Years ago, a famous guy said, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” (It’s in a letter to some ancient Romans.)

These surely have been times for weeping, and they are not over, but I hope we also can find some happiness as we move forward. Otherwise, it seems, COVID wins, and that is just not acceptable.

Ferrell Foster is content specialist for care and communications at Prosper Waco. He and his wife, Trese, have five adult children and five grandchildren. He is a native Texan, having grown up in Dallas.

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