Neighborhood Controversy

I had an unpleasant conversation on a neighborhood listserve recently, and I can’t seem to let it go. Someone posted that there was a petition for keeping the local farmer’s markets open during the pandemic. The state has classified them in the same category as restaurants, which are closed, rather than grocery stores, which are open. She wasn’t pushing her views on anyone, just telling people where they could sign the petition if they agreed.

Another resident responded with “Are you kidding me?” and no other explanation.

A few days later, that person spoke up again, saying her sister, a nurse in another city, is not being provided by her hospital with basic protection such as gloves, sterile scrubs, and masks, and was told she is required to work nonetheless, or will lose her job. Then she harangued us for not taking the virus seriously, and telling us we should stay home instead of going to farmer’s markets. She insisted that a farmer’s market is frivolous and not essential.

I was one of several people who responded, showing sympathy for her sister’s situation, but pointing out that we all do need to buy food on occasion. I said that my own reading of the advice from experts indicated that the chance of contracting the virus in an outdoor venue was less than that in an indoor one, so if I needed to buy food, I had thought it was safer to buy at a farmer’s market than a grocery store. I asked her if she had information contradicting that, and she insisted that nobody buys all their food at a farmer’s market, so it’s just one more stop in addition to a grocery store.

As someone who can often buy everything I need at the farmer’s market — especially true at the time of this conversation, since some grocery stores were not able to stay well stocked — I felt it was presumptuous of her to tell anyone where they should shop, and to assume she knew the shopping habits of strangers. But I thought maybe she was terrified about her sister’s situation and not thinking straight, so I did not accuse her of such.

I should mention that this was not just a two-way conversation; others had chimed in to ask questions and present their own views. I did not count the posts, but it seemed that most people were on the side of the farmer’s market. Personally I did not express an opinion about whether it should be opened or closed, but phrased my comments as questions, probing for information.

For instance, I asked what she thought the best way to get groceries would be, and whether she was having hers delivered, as a lot of people are now, and whether she would recommend that. She got snippy, beginning, “Since you’re so interested in my shopping habits…”

I responded that I was sorry if I’d been unclear, but my intent was not to pry; it’s just that she seemed to have a lot of information on the subject and I thought she might advise us. I don’t think she ever responded to that one, and I stopped reading the thread after that; it was stressing me out too much.

I really should stay off of Next Door. It seems to attract the most contentious people.

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