With our chickens now fully grown, our little egg business is now and up running. A couple weeks back, one humble post on an online marketplace instantly gained us enough repeat customers to sell out of the approximately 315 eggs that our little hens produce each week.
It was my job this morning to keep the kids out of the house while Kendra executed an easter hunt throughout our house, so I piled the kids into the van and headed out for our own kind of easter egg delivery.
Today’s egg drop was for a customer we’ve still never met. Kendra interacts with him via text. We drop the eggs on his doorstep. The money is waiting in his mailbox. Today, he wasn’t home at all, so the money will come later as an e-transfer (we hope).
The next stop was the local credit union, to their drive-thru bank machine. I wiped down the screen and the pin-paid with a Wet Wipe and deposited the cash we’d been collecting from our egg sales over the past couple weeks.
I still had a little more time to kill. In our current quarantine reality, though, there are not many places to go, especially with kids. As I slid my wallet back into my pocket, I remembered that Addie’s watch needed a new battery, from a speciality battery store, and that I’d already tried three separate occasions to get there, but the adjusted crisis hours kept blocking us.
I drove over to the store, pulled into the deserted parking lot, and stepped inside while the kids kept watching a DVD in the van.
Inside the store, caution tape prevented me from reaching the counter. Two cautious clerks stepped out, one for Speaking, and one for Standing. I explained my needs.
“We’re not doing watch battery replacements or installs right now,” said the Speaking Clerk.
“Oh,” I replied. “Can I at least purchase the battery and install it myself?”
“Yes,” said the Speaking Clerk. “What type of battery is it?”
I looked down at the device, held together with tiny screws. I looked back at the battery experts standing beside a wall of watch batteries.
“The kind that fits this,” I said, gesturing at the watch. “What battery would you guess belongs in this?”
The Standing Clerk selected three from the rack and placed them on the counter, the stepped away. Taking my turn, I stepped forward to analyze three packages. All three were circular, flat watch batteries, indistinguishable except for tiny variations in size and markings. There was no indication which would fit.
I didn’t fault the cautious battery salespeople for following reasonable physical distancing guidelines. I just sorta expected them to have an answer for the battery question.
“I’ll come back once I unscrew this at home, I guess?” I said. They nodded, and I turned to leave the store, saying “Thanks for your help” as I left. (I hadn’t meant the thank-you to be sarcastic, but it may have come across that way.)
I went back to the van, where the kids were anachronously ingesting a Halloween episode of Curious George on disc. I found my Swiss army knife in the glovebox, and fiddled with various settings and contraptions to see if I could unscrew the tiny screws. Nothing fit.
With a lip-fluttering dejected sigh, I sat back in the driver’s seat, van still pointed towards the battery store’s glass frontage just a step away.
I noticed the QR code on the back of the watch, the model number right beside it. I grabbed my phone, googled “what battery for a….” and had my answer in 0.445 seconds.
I hopped back out of the van, opened the store’s door with my jacket sleeve.
The bell jingled, and the two cautious clerks emerged from the back room.
“I forgot the internet existed,” I announced, waving my phone and my watch.
“Oh yeah,” said the Speaking Clerk. “Why do we always forget about that?”
“I need the CR1632 battery,” I said, and completed our physically-distant transaction with a tap of my credit card, and headed back home for our family’s easter surprise.
As I left the parking lot, I passed a restaurant advertising their new digital ordering system, one previously only ever known for its in-restaurant dining service — and another, and another.
“I forget the internet existed,” might as well be the slogan of every lagging organization from the past decade, who have been sleep-walking through digitization as if it were optional, or a hindrance.
This isn’t the time for a rant about digital transformation, and it’s not my point, but I’ll indulge in a brief aside. In our current coronavirus shock, every industry is now discovering the possibilities and limitations of how technology can or cannot help their core businesses. We’re becoming more aware of these capabilities, and we’re testing them: from online education to store deliveries. For most of the world, we now remember the internet exists.
This morning, I was reading Gabor Maté’s insanely brilliant and heartbreaking book, In The Realm Of The Hungry Ghosts. (I didn’t think I’d have the opportunity to read it, but I already had it checked out when our libraries froze check-outs and returns due to Covid-19.) It’s a seminal work chronicling the impact and sources of addiction, written from this working doctor’s lived experience on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
In one passage, he describes the maddening inefficiency of how a certain Canadian system works to get people the resources they need. He wonders in passing if there might be a better way, and says something like this:
“An alternate system might well be possible…and it would certainly take imagination, compassion and flexibility.”
Like the internet for battery store clerks — if only there was a way that humans could see we have had those three characteristics in abundance all along.
To be clear, I am not talking about the internet itself.
The human capacity for creativity, for love, for responsiveness is being remembered now. We are all being jangled out of the back store rooms into the reality that all along, we have been fully empowered and enabled to live awake, alert lives of connectedness and ingenuity, of sensitivity and care.
Imagination, compassion and flexibility are all we would need in order to imagine an alternate system were people’s fundamentals needs are met in a life-giving way?
Then what’s stopping us?
These wonderful, powerful, explosively colourful gifts and characteristics have been present all along, hidden like easter eggs amongst our households and throughout our world. It’s time to return home to hunt for them.