A Case for Spontaneity

By Meg Walburn Viviano

“I just miss wandering aimlessly through the aisles of Target!”  It’s a sentiment that would have sounded absurd six months ago. But when a friend made this admission recently, I must confess, I could relate. I used to run into Target for laundry detergent and protein bars, or diapers and light bulbs, weekly—and I never walked out with only the items on my list. A coffee mug with a fun slogan, truck pajamas for my two-year-old, and a birthday card for an old friend are the kinds of things that would end up in my cart.  

When the pandemic began, I quit my “running into Target” habit. Five months later, I still haven’t set foot in the store. I’ve been getting our home staples on Amazon or during our weekly grocery run. This way, I’ve eliminated an extra trip to a public place with socially-distanced lines that stretch across the store.  

Still, I miss the spontaneity of deciding to swing in somewhere on the way home from work. Almost anywhere I go now, I plan ahead. Our favorite bagel shop is carryout only, so we order ahead of time online, rather than gazing at the bins of plump bagels to pick out the tastiest one. The pool we belong to is open (yay!) but members must reserve time slots according to a 50 percent capacity restriction. I set my alarm for 6 a.m. to get a spot for the pool’s 10 a.m. opening time.  

Many regional attractions that have been able to reopen are doing so with timed entry tickets to manage capacity, including the Maryland Zoo, National Aquarium and Maryland Science Center. Gone are the days of waking up on Saturday, musing about what to go see, and hopping in the car. The era of COVID-19 is not the era of free-wheelin’ spontaneity. 

But wait—there is one local organization that has come up with the element of surprise and spontaneity that some folks are missing. The Calvert County Library system is rolling out a “grab bag” concept for borrowing books.  

The current curbside library service doesn’t allow for the simple pleasure of browsing the stacks for titles that pique your interest, thumbing through a book and putting it back. Curbside check-out also doesn’t afford children the chance to pick up an intriguing-looking storybook cover and discover a new read-aloud favorite. 

In a stroke of genius, the library will now offer curbside “grab bags” of 20 books for children or adults, which you can go through, keep some to check out and hand back the rest. The library will also choose personalized selections based on your preferences—a personal shopper for book borrowing!  

Calvert Library’s concept is my favorite story covered in this issue of Bay Weekly, and it reminds me that with a little creativity, we can find joy in new ways rather than dwell on the things we miss. 

Now, if only Target would start offering grab bags.