Herbie Mandell didn’t want to go Shopping during Covid-19 but…

Alan J. Schwarz
5 min readApr 16, 2020

Herbie Mandell was living in home isolation and was happy. He created a routine and stayed on schedule everyday. It started with waking up at six thirty in the morning and jumping in the shower. He washed, brushed his teeth and got dressed. He Face Timed with his Sister and Niece and after a good morning, he went for breakfast. After a light bite he got to work. He stared at the computer screen and then started writing proposals.

On Tuesday, April 12th his Sister asked if he could do her a favour. Marky, was a Single Mom and her daughter, Jello was quarantined with her. They had run out of some basic necessities and she asked Herbie if he could grab them for her and leave them on her stoop.

Marky was a lovely woman and her life was devoted to her four year old daughter. Herbie adored Jello, (real name Simone) who was very smart, and a very good girl. Her Dad, Andre was from France and shortly after he had married Marky, he decided he couldn’t handle the responsibility of being a devoted husband and Dad and went back to Paris. This happened when Marky was seven months pregnant. Andre gave Marky a divorce and that was the end of the relationship. Andre had never seen his daughter.

Herbie never understood how Andre could ignore his own flesh and blood, but that was his loss. Herbie was proud to be a very close Uncle.

His first reaction when Marky asked was to say ‘’No’’ but she explained she had tried to order food to get delivered and there was absolutely no slots available. She was counting on him. There was a lot of pressure but she knew he would deliver.

The truth was Herbie was terrified. He had almost become agoraphobic. The idea of leaving his home for any reason made him nervous. Covid-19 was spreading and it was no joke.

After creating his own mask Herby called his Sister and informed her he was heading out the next morning. Seniors had an earlier start time to go shopping before the rest of the public and he was going to take advantage of it. He had just turned sixty the week before.

At five forty five am Herbie got dressed and put on his gloves and his newly created mask. He had made his mask out of a sock.

He got to the store and walked right in. The fellow at the door looked at him and laughingly said ‘’Sock It To Me’’. Herbie didn’t think he was funny.

Going up and down the aisles was like playing Supermarket Sweepstakes. He ran as quickly as possible following the list he held in one hand while trying to practice social distancing.

The cart filled and while he couldn’t find the required Toilet paper he had everything else. He wondered why Marky and Jello wanted so much Mac and Cheese but he just followed instructions.

He lined up at the cashier and pulled out his debit card. He found it amazing that she wasn’t wearing gloves or a mask, as this was risky for her and him. The worst part was when she started talking to him. There was a plexiglass barrier between them, but it was still disconcerting.

‘’Did you find everything you need?’’ Herbie nodded yes in response even though he couldn’t see any Toilet paper. ‘’You Seniors are smart to come early.’’ Again Herbie just nodded, all he wanted was to get moving, he didn’t want to have a major discussion. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, she said ‘’One Hundred Twenty Three Dollars and Sixty Cents’’

Herbie reached into his wallet and pulled out his debit card. He hit the buttons and put the card back after it was approved. ‘’You better make sure and wash your card and your wallet. they say the virus can cling on to plastic and who knows what’s in our debit machines. We try to keep it clean, but you just never know.’’ Herbie thought that was a terrible thought as he left.

He drove to Marky’s house (She had her own Insurance Agency and was doing work from home) and he pulled into the driveway. He got out and removed the bags with her groceries from the trunk. He looked up and Jello was looking at him out the window. He stopped for a few seconds and felt something inside his stomach clenching.

He waved, danced around and left. Jello had a huge smile on her face. Marky called him before he was even off her street to thank him, and he explained it was his pleasure. The smile on Jello’s face was worth everything.

When Herbie got home he threw his running shoes and coat in the trunk of his car and he carried his grocery bags to the basement. He took a pot of water and filled it with soap and scrubbed every package, including the fruit he bought. He then stripped his clothes and threw everything in the washing machine, went upstairs and showered.

He put on a pair of track pants and a tee shirt and sat down at his computer to do work. Shopping had scared the shit out of him, but seeing Jello’s smile was worth the risk.

As Herbie got to work he kept thinking the same thought. Life was about family and sometimes when horrible things happen like the appearance of Covid-19, the best balm is knowing that you have family that love you and vice versa. Seeing Jello through the window was not as good as being able to hug her, but it was better than FaceTime. Herbie didn’t want to go shopping but the fact he did something important for his Sister and Niece made it all worthwhile. He was ruminating on that thought when the phone rang ‘’Hey Herbie, listen I appreciate the shopping, but we really need you to go our and find us some toilet paper.’’ Sometimes family could also be a pain in the ass.



Alan J. Schwarz

Alan Schwarz loves life. He is the founder of JAMS Productions, a television production company based in Toronto . His passion is writing.