Unmasked (also, tomatoes) 6/29/2021

Quick things:

  • Want to receive this newsletter via email? Sign up here.
  • We’re open for pre-orders/curbside pickup AND in-person shopping. Click here for more info, or here to start shopping!
  • New & noteworthy: Have you checked out our Nice Buns? A first round of heirloom tomatoes landed today. Berries and cherries remain the fleeting highlight. Peas might not be quite as exciting but are nearly as fleeting — grab ’em while you can. Zucchini is high on my list — and OMG we have so much of it — please buy some!
  • This week’s soups: The kitchen is taking a week off from fresh soup while they continue developing some new ideas (coming soon, we hope!). In the meantime, we’ve got a good freezer stock of Chicken Noodle, Cheesy Broccoli, and vegan Roasted Broccoli with Cracked Pepper.
  • Want to see what produce we have without scrolling through the online store?  Click here to view our current(ish) availability and when we expect various deliveries to arrive. (Updated mostly daily; no guarantees it’s perfect.)
  • Masks are no longer required. (But of course are always welcome.)
  • WE WILL BE OPEN this Sunday, July 4th. Regular Sunday hours — 9am-5pm.

 

Cheeseburger on a Nice Bun. Taken before tomatoes appeared, but a redux is on the horizon. I’m looking forward to many of these throughout the summer.

When I got to the store this morning, a little before 10am, I entered through the back door. I was carrying a big bag of clean rags and aprons, along with a a fat folder of bookkeeping papers, and I felt awkward hauling all that through the service area — but mostly I wasn’t sure I was ready to go in the front door maskless.

For the last year I’ve had nightmares (literally) with a recurring theme — I’m somewhere and I realize I’m not wearing a mask. In the dream, I’m terrified that I’ve offended the people around me, or they’re going to think I’m an anti-masker or don’t care about their health, and I’m paralyzed. It’s the current day version of giving a high school speech with no pants on, I guess.

As June 28th and the lifting of Pennsylvania’s mask mandate have approached, I’ve been watching the data for our area carefully. I’ve been thinking a lot about my personal feelings about masks, and my personal feeling of safety, and my personal risk tolerance, and my sort of societal risk tolerance, and I’ve been thinking some more and Dusty and I have been talking and talking and talking. It wasn’t, when the date was first announced several weeks ago, a foregone conclusion that we would end R&R’s mask requirement just because the statewide mandate was lifted.

We’ve tried to be data-responsive and responsible throughout the pandemic. For the last year+ that has meant being sticklers about masks, and, well, modifying our entire business model for 11 months of that, all in the name of keeping ourselves and you as safe as we could while continuing to get good local food into your hands. It worked pretty well, and we made it through nearly unscathed, from a COVID perspective.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how politicized the pandemic itself and the associated risk-mitigation measures have been, about the role of identity politics in our respective responses to the pandemic. I’ve been noticing over the last few weeks that when folks enter without a mask, I’m less concerned about safety and more annoyed at their seeming disregard for our safety.

I’m trying to reconcile my personal attachment to continuing to wear a mask as a form of virtue-signaling with the data showing that the risk is the lowest its been since we first closed; lower than it was when we first started wearing masks. This is true regardless of vaccination status, really — the number of new cases in Dauphin County is the lowest its been since March 2020, meaning that community spread is nearly non-existent. And if I factor in that I and most of my staff are fully vaccinated, the risk to us is incredibly low.

Of course, it’s not like that everywhere. The Delta variant is spreading through some parts of the country and we may see cases rise again if or when it makes it here. We’ll continue to keep an eye on the numbers, and we may choose to reinstate our mask requirement if warranted.

For now, I’m trying to continue to be data-responsive, and I’m trying to objectively weigh my own risk tolerance, both for myself personally, and for the business. I don’t want to participate in identity politics, and I don’t want to have arbitrary rules just for the sake of testing what kind of person someone is. All signs point to it being time for me to shake myself out of the mask-wearing identity I’ve adopted over the past 16ish months. I’m trying to reconcile my emotional comfort with my intellectual comfort.

This morning, after I’d laid down my paperwork and laundry burden, I put on my apron and ventured out to the front, maskless. I felt scared! I was out there for a couple of hours, noting with interest what percentage of visitors were wearing masks or not. It was pretty mixed. I felt relieved to see several folks who I know have been right there with me in their personal mask feelings also choosing to go without today.

I also had quite a few moments of feeling panic well up within me — Oh no! Where’s my mask?!?! It was a familiar feeling, and one I look forward to shaking.

That panic, reflective of residual trauma from a year of fear, pales in comparison to my sense of gratitude. For low case counts and limited transmission. For vaccines. For all the smiles — real smiles! — that I got to see today.

I don’t know what happens from here, but whether this is a respite or truly the beginning of the end, I’m going to do my best to enjoy it.

Julia

PS – We don’t all share the same level of risk tolerance or risk factors. I’ve heard some folks express worries about what people will think if they continue to wear a mask — I won’t think anything at all. Masks will always be welcome at R&R. You do you.