Kiwi spirit sanitised to oblivion

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Opinion & commentary

I am not going to the shops any more. For now I shall be a permanent online shopper. I am sick of signing in and rubbing pointless sanitiser over my hands.

There were a few items I needed urgently the other day and so I jumped in the car to go get what I needed at a local shopping parade.

Parked in a central spot I stepped out of the car to be confronted by a veritable sea of discarded face masks on the pavement. As I walked along the street I found myself tip-toeing between dozens of soiled masks tossed away by thoughtless gits.

Stories are surfacing of used masks being strewn across public parks and beaches… Even seagulls are getting their legs caught in them and having to be cut free… Anyway…

Shop One

The doors are closed but the sign says ‘open’ with a logo shaped like a big smile. The automatic doors don’t open as I approach them, but as I turn to walk away they are pulled apart to reveal a short man with a sparkle in his eyes who invites me in. This is very strange indeed.

It seems the sensor that would normally open the sliding doors has been switched off and the manager now opens and closes them with his bare hands – like a gnome-sized superhero.

The chirpy and bearded 30-something points to a table where I am to jot down my name and phone number. I fundamentally object, but comply with a smile and looking around discover I am the only customer. As I put the pen down he gestures to a dispenser.

I pick the bottle up and read it is an antibacterial hand wash.

It’s an antibacterial, I say.

“Yes, all customers use it when they come in,” he says with a grin that reminds me a little of Manuel out of Fawlty Towers.

Because of the Covid-19 virus?

“Yes.”

You really need an antiviral wash to counter a virus. An antibacterial is pointless!

He looks at me like I am an idiot and I can sense the colour of my face change from a pale relaxed pink to a more reddish volcanic complexion as my blood pressure rises at the stupidity of it all (and the government’s plan to stop a virus, which is an impossible proposition in my opinion).

At this point I educate the manager on the differences between an antibacterial and an antiviral hand wash. Pointing out, as gently as possible, that an antibacterial sanitiser is designed to kill bacteria (good when handling food) but won’t destroy a virus; and therefore asking me to rinse my hands in this stuff protects no one (I read it may also be harmful if over-used).

He looked at me without comment; clearly startled at the challenge. Sensing the approaching impasse I turn to squirt what I discover to be an awful-smelling gel over the palm of my right hand and rub onto my left. It’s a horrible sensation, I don’t like it, and this product does not dry quickly…It’s like axel grease.

He watches as I glance around the store of very expensive and delicate products, I show him my hands glistening in his sanitiser and say: “Which one shall I touch first…let me see…” As I start walking toward the most expensive thing in the store he rushes to get ahead of me.

Within 60 seconds I leave the store as he doesn’t have any stock of the items I want. So that was a fruitless exercise. Still, as I carefully stepped across the pavement I hoped he would at least consider the banality of his sanitised silliness.

Shop Two

A few steps down the road, still smelling of the first store’s putrid gel I approach the door of a competitor retailer.

The doors are open and an employee is standing guard to prevent a rush of customers entering in one go. He too gestures to a table of hand sanitiser and a pen for me to write down my name and number. I fundamentally object, but comply.

I explain I have just, one minute ago, sanitised my hands at a neighbouring store and don’t feel I need to do it again.

With a hint of determined bullishness rarely seen in the otherwise welcoming world of retail (where the customer is always right) he said: “I didn’t see you at the other store so if you want to come into my shop you’ll need to rinse your hands with my sanitiser.”

I told him what I was looking to buy and said that if he had one in stock I’d rinse my hands and enter to complete the purchase.

“I am not helping you unless you rinse your hands first,” he said with his arms folded across his chest.

At this point I have a decision. Comply or walk away. It was a 50-50.

Having sanitised my hands for the second time in two minutes, I crossed the threshold of his store to again find I am the only customer.

I tell him what I am looking for and he escorts me to the back of his shop, where he pushes some small boxes around before telling me he doesn’t have what I want. Helpfully he says they will be arriving in six weeks’ time.

As I turn to head to the door I tell the store owner that sanitizer doesn’t kill viruses and he looks at me with a couldn’t-care-less face.

I then wonder how many times I’ll need to sanitise my hands before:

  • I get what I am looking for
  • Explode with rage
  • Give up and go home

I didn’t have to wait long to find out – I have little tolerance of wanton ignorance and gross stupidity.

As I leave a 20-something customer walks in, jots down their details and uses the hand wash without a murmur or a complaint. Ultimate compliance.

Is this still New Zealand? What the hell’s happened to the Kiwi spirit and the questioning of authority, power, and government?

Driving home I listen to news of more cases of Covid in what some people are calling a Case-Demic. Lots of infections, very few deaths (just like the flu).

Back home I share my experiences with my partner in full detail. Unimpressed by my public protests and attempts to educate the people I meet I’m asked if wore a mask.

Silly question.

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