Title text: The state has had so many contact tracers disappear into that shop that they've had to start a contact tracer tracing program.
Beret Guy is making contact with a shop that sells cursed items, only to vanish when the customer tries to return the product. He has previously mentioned doing most of his shopping (including groceries) at such locations in 1772: Startup Opportunity, and visited one (possibly the same one) several months earlier in 2332: Cursed Chair. That visit ended with him trying to stop the COVID-19 pandemic by destroying the cursed chair, but evidently he either failed to destroy the chair (which claimed to be immortal) or found that doing so didn't halt the pandemic. (Apparently Beret Guy has visited this same store before, since he says that "it's so stuffy in there", but has not attempted to return any of his purchases, since the store has not disappeared yet. Or perhaps it is simply nonexistent when someone is trying to return something.)
After confirming that he has the right number, Beret Guy asks if the cursed store does curbside pickup, as he intends to place an order for bread and a cursed amulet, but does not wish to go inside during the pandemic. Many grocery stores have started offering such services, allowing a customer to place an order over the phone or online, then receive it outside the store, thus minimizing the interaction with store staff or other customers. Closed spaces are understood to pose a greater risk of contagion than the outdoors, where wind and sun can mitigate airborne viral particles.
The store's contact replies that no, they do not offer curbside pickup, but tries to assure Beret Guy that all employees at the location wear masks. (They might be wearing haunted Halloween masks.) When Beret Guy expresses disappointment at the revelation, complaining about the stuffy air of the shop, the contact advises him to consider the virus as part of the curses that come with their products. Beret Guy gets angry at this -- apparently, he's okay with buying cursed items, but not exposing himself to unacceptable risks of catching COVID-19. Beret Guy promptly proclaims that he will not be doing business with the location if they are going to showcase such an attitude towards the pandemic. It's unclear how he will find another store with similar unusual characteristics, although it has been mentioned that there is an entire industry of these stores.
Beret Guy mentions that he wants to buy an amulet in order to 'do battle with ghosts', which is not an ordinary thing to do given that most people cannot interact directly with ghosts. Perhaps he has a ghost-fighting weapon that he has also bought from the shop, although a more likely explanation (given Beret Guy's peculiarity) seems that he is somehow able to engage in martial combat with them. A common argument for how ghosts can exist is that they are in another dimension; given that Beret Guy has extra dimensions in his bones (2310: Great Attractor), he might appear as a skeleton warrior in the ghosts' dimension. Thus, being able to battle ghosts would be one of the many strange powers of Beret Guy. It is also unclear why Beret Guy specifically wants to anger the ghosts.
He also mentions that he is there to buy groceries, which is rather ordinary in contrast to the previous request. This is another example of Beret Guy's seemingly oblivious view of the world, putting the purchase of a ghostly amulet on par with buying bread.
The title text explains that contact tracers have been attempting to visit the store to figure out who else has been working or shopping there, which suggests that people may have been exposed to COVID there. However, presumably because of the peculiar nature of the store, a notable number of the contact tracers have not returned from visiting it, leading the state to create a tracing program to find the missing contact tracers. The joke here is that the contact tracers must now be traced by another tracing program. This same kind of recursivity of tracking tracers has been previously explored for finding finders and incinerating incinerators.
- [Beret Guy talking on a cell phone. The response from the person on the phone is in a jagged bubble.]
- Beret Guy: Hi, is this the shop that sells cursed items but when you try to return them the shop is gone?
- Phone: Yes, how can I help you?
- [A frameless panel. Beret Guy still talking on the phone]
- Beret Guy: Do you do curbside pickup? I wanted to buy a cursed amulet that angers ghosts, and some groceries.
- Phone: No, but it's okay, we wear masks.
- [Zoomed in on other side of Beret Guy's face]
- Beret Guy: So you can't bring stuff out?
- Phone: I'm afraid not.
- Beret Guy: But it's so stuffy in there!
- [The callee's response is on the top of the panel. Beret Guy is now holding his phone in front of him, ready to end the call.]
- Phone: Why not think of the virus as part of the amulet's curse?
- Beret Guy: Excuse me!? I'm trying to buy some bread and do battle with ghosts, not endanger my family and friends in a pandemic!
- Beret Guy: I will take my business elsewhere.
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