• Janelle Stear posted a status
    Grocery Shopping During Covid-19 Instead of my usual little informative blogs, here is a story for you. Yesterday, at the grocery store, I walked around feeling as though in an alternate universe. The usual sight of people filling their carts with items without paying much attention to people around them was no longer apparent. Now people, myself especially, were more than mindful of others as we walked down aisles this way and that. I tried barely touching my hands to my cart, even though I had wiped it down before starting. There had been a spray bottle and wet towel on a table at the front of the store, probably carrying germs from other cart users. We each quickly moved on to let someone else take the space. The six-feet-distance order proved tricky maneuvering through the aisles, especially in the baking aisle where a store employee stocked items. I needed flour, but there was no regular flour on the shelf, and I did not want to ask the employee standing there for help as I knew she’d tell me there was no more. This lack of flour seemed strange; it could only be further evidence of people’s unnecessary panic. I settled for coconut flour and went on. I finished in the baking aisle and turned the large metal cart with my forearms (tricky) around the end display of Seltzer water beverages. Another lady came around the corner quickly. I turned my cart quickly, barely avoiding her. Imagine having to deal with a traffic accident in the grocery store during this time! There’d be invisible germs everywhere having a party while we humans are panicking over being too close together. Taking a breath of relief at not colliding with the lady, I head towards the natural peanut butter machine. One thing I noticed was that there were no hand sanitizer bottles anywhere in the store. Considering how fifty people before me probably touched the button I had to push to turn the raw peanuts into peanut butter, I cringed the whole time. The oozy brown, creamy crushed peanuts filled half of the container. Then the machine stopped. I still pressed the button. Nothing came out of the metal pipe. I looked up to see that the inside was empty. No peanuts were left. What? I imagined hearing my daughter’s disappointment at the half-empty container. They’d rather have the fattening, non-natural stuff, but this would be a hard blow. I pictured my two girls in our kitchen, shocked and repelled at this half-filled container. Not even enough for two sandwiches! (Good thing my girls aren’t really like that.) A man probably thirty years older than me with graying, thinning hair, came up behind me. My heart fluttered as I put a lid on my half-full container. “Sorry,” I told him, holding up my container, “There is no more left. I only got this much.” I set it in my cart and walked away. Then, the guilt struck. I should offer to give what I have to him. He needs it more than my kids do. I turned back to him, but he was already walking over to a store employee asking for more peanuts. Oh yeah, I could have asked someone myself. The employee brought over a bag of peanuts and poured it into the grinding machine. After thanking him, the man started filling his own container. I hung back by the bulk bins, waiting for my turn. I looked for a barrel that had peanuts or flour (not sure why) but rejected the idea of getting peanuts from there: the thought of having to use a plastic bag. [I have an issue with how much plastic we use in this country. Perhaps that should be another post.] The peanut butter container is bad enough, especially since you can’t recycle it (so why are we getting it?). The man starts filling a second container of peanut butter. Should there be a limit on this like the toilet paper and kleenex? I impatiently walked away to find other items on my list. I did go back to finish filling up peanut butter later. Near the end of my shopping, I was walking in the paper product aisle to see the nearly empty shelves. No toilet paper, a dozen or so Kleenex boxes, and that was about it until the paper plate and napkin selection (unusual). Two ladies, both a bit older than me, stood closely to each other at the tissues. Are they related? No, there are two shopping carts near them. Their polite discourse is inaudible, while they both got a box, and one of them got two boxes. The one-box lady asked why she’s getting two to which the two-box lady said, “I want to make sure I have enough.” The one-box lady started walking away towards me as I waited. She smiled, but I thought I saw an eye-roll as she passed me. Then the two-box lady saw the sign on the shelf limiting customers to one per family. “Oh, I can only get one,” she exclaimed as I passed her. Goodness! At the checkout line, people were spaced apart approximately six feet. At the start of the check stand, there was a line of blue tape on the floor. Also, above it, there was a sign that stated to stay behind the blue line, be mindful of your distance to others (six feet), and wait for your turn. Let me tell you I had several problems with this whole scenario. First, I wondered why they weren’t controlling the aisles in the store helping people to stay far apart because I had to get close to many people, including store employees. Second, how far is six-feet really? The man in front of me put his items on the conveyor belt. He stood at the blue line, waited his turn, then when the lady in front of him paid, he moved forward to take his turn. I stood at the blue line and silently watched the awkward dance between the two customers. The cashier had her thick black hair tied in a ponytail; her green store apron hung around her neck, and her hands moved items from one belt to another. While not wearing gloves, she touched keys on her screen in between moving items. The cashier monitored the customers, reminded them to keep a distance if they were too close, and asked a question about their day. Meanwhile, I contemplated buying gum for the car. I didn’t want to miss my turn at the conveyor belt, though, so I tried to hurriedly pick out what I would grab. Of all the choices, my kind was not there. Another lady stepped up behind me, she stayed back, but I cringed just the same. What has happened to me that I am afraid to stand by strangers? Then, when it was my turn, I put all of my items on the belt and pushed my cart up to the card reader, only the cashier waved me back. The guy in front of me hadn’t finished, even though he had gone to bag his groceries. I apologized and darted back closer to the lady behind me. She had started to put her stuff on the belt. I felt even more tense than a shy 2nd grader giving a report to the class. Finally, I got to the card reader. The cashier scanned my items. I mentioned how it was too bad they could not keep us apart better in the aisles. She agreed. I stared at the black square box to insert my debit card, suddenly afraid to now have to touch this machine. The guy before me had touched it, and the lady before him, and fifty other customers in the last hour probably. Had this machine been wiped down today, or ever? I had no choice. I had to put my fingers on it to complete the process of buying groceries. I imagined a giant coronavirus in cartoon form (like those viruses in cold medicine commercials) coming out of the box to heckle me, “Haha, you’re next to get infected. You’re going to love me, babe.” Ugh, I hurriedly tapped the significant numbers and answered the questions, relieved as a Girl Scout parent when cookie season is over. I exhaled a long deep waterfall breath and packed up my food. As soon as I finished, I remembered the bottle of hand sanitizer in a side pocket of my purse. Putting it on my hands and rubbing my fingers around the gooey yet refreshing smell of clean, I darted out of the store and returned to my social isolation. In the car, alone, I took more long, deep breaths and put more sanitizer on.

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