Adventures in Grocery Shopping

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This is why Lynn would rather do the shopping herself.

I am completely traumatized, recently returned from my first official foray into a grocery store since Lockdown began.

I had been as far as the City Market pharmacy and one nearby aisle, but that’s it. I believe Lynn has gone shopping twice. We are trying to stay away, but the county has asked that the on-line ordering be reserved for those 60 and older, so eventually one of us had to put in another appearance.

It turns out, the reason for setting the “geezer hour” — as one of my geezer friends likes to call it — first thing in the morning is not because we just assume old people like to get up and out early, but because that’s when the store is at its cleanest and most germ-free.

While I am at least — easily — two and a half years from geezerdom, I like the logic of avoiding germs. I picked a day, today, that I don’t think is reserved for senior shopping —

[When I was 13 I looked 9; when I was 18 I looked 13; when I was 21 I looked 16 and had some dental assistants assure me that someday I would be pleased to be mistaken for being younger than I actually am. Yet here I am, still trying to look at least my age if not older. Lynn, ever the helpmate, assures me no one is going to question me at a 60-plus gathering.]

— and it really didn’t matter anyway, because by the time I managed “early” it was well past Safeway’s first hour of operation and everyone in town was there.

All right, I imagine it wasn’t much of the town at all, the town’s preference clearly being City Market. But I like Safeway, because it’s less crowded and because their store still has some natural light coming in.

Paradigms have shifted in a major way, however: at any grocery trip in my past I would have wheeled obliviously past any fellow shoppers, mumbling “excuse me” as our carts touched but never paying attention to how many of them I was sharing the aisles with.

Today, now that I’m counting, there were hundreds. Perhaps thousands. Starting in the parking lot, as I inadvertently parked behind an old (in this case, both as in “former” and as in, well, “old”) neighbor from Irwin Street. From a distance, I followed her into the store. I followed her to the carts. I followed her aisle by aisle. She didn’t seem to recognize me, and I didn’t attempt to start a conversation. That’s a different sort, not nearly as called for, of  social distancing. Which, apparently some public health types wish we would call it “physical distancing” instead.

[Here’s another aside: I decided yesterday while I was out mailing a bill (at the drop box outside the germ-infested post office while wearing gloves) that we as a species are not any better at measuring six feet than we are at six inches. In both instances, despite protestations from any party that might be involved, I think we’re talking four. At best.]

I did talk to Darrah, who I didn’t even know worked at Safeway. That’s because she starts at 5 a.m., and if I were in my right, untraumatized mind I would never be anywhere near her place of employment at these uncivilized morning hours. Darrah’s husband is a lawyer, and apparently even this early into this process of socially distant except for your family, whom you may be right on top of, the demand for divorce lawyers has skyrocketed. (An unhappy kind of social distancing.)

I want you to know, I thought I prepared for my shopping excursion. I brought vinyl gloves. I had hand sanitizer in the car. I called my friend Julia ahead of time to see if she needed anything. She sounded tired and coughed a lot and said she didn’t need anything, but then she called while I was at the store and asked for a pill cutter. Which I couldn’t find. And, it turns out, her dog is in desperate need of a walk, so I’ll go over a little later and do that.

[Before any of you panic, I will fetch Sadie out of the backyard, using my own leash, which I will sanitize before returning it to my car. I will wash my hands thoroughly. Julia did not make this virus sound like fun. She reported that Paul will be on the ventilator for at least a week. His daughters, the younger of whom drove to Pueblo to be with her sister, have been able to talk to, if not with, him through Facetime a couple of times. I did also read in the county report that one reason for moving patients, in addition to better critical care options, is to get them to a lower altitude with more oxygen.]

And, if I can possibly digress any more than I have so far, Paul and Julia’s situation made me realize we should have a plan in place for our animals, but we aren’t there yet. I read an advice column where a woman referred to one of her children (fondly, I’d like to think) as a “butt barnacle” who has to follow her mother everywhere in the house. That is Ozzie to a T, or B, and I have no idea where we send him, but it would have to be with someone willing to deal with a butt barnacle 24/7.

In fact, Ozzie lent to the trauma this morning, because in addition to his usual screaming at being left behind in the car, he voiced his protest with huge barking sprees. Every single time I stopped the car.

Which I had to do more than planned, because it turned out I had failed in the most basic preparations for grocery shopping. I went in with my sanitized hands inside gloves, my bags purposely left in the car so I could avoid picking up store germs on them (the governor wants us to go back to using plastic, assuming we will throw those away and not re-use them, but I just can’t go there with him. We have to remember the health of the planet, too) — but I forgot that some people, and I don’t know what kind of people these are, actually expect you to pay for your groceries before you leave the store.

And it further turns out that Safeway is the only place on the planet where you can’t punch in a number without the card being present. I did have $40 cash on me, but it seemed clear I was spending more than that, particularly since the empty aisle I chose to take refuge in while talking to Lynn contained Reese’s Easter candy and bendy toys.

So I had to park my cart and go to the post office, where Lynn fortunately got hung up boxing mail (rather than going to Almont as scheduled), Oz barking all the way, and stand in an elongated line with — of course — a problem customer, or at least a customer with a lengthy problem, at the head of it. Fortunately Lynn figured out I was there and brought me the credit card so that I could go back to the grocery, Oz barking all the way, pay for my groceries and finally take my leave of these germ-magnets.

Maybe I’ll just let Lynn do the shopping from here on out.

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