Shopping the Safe Way

safeway 0420
Our Safeway doesn’t look a thing like this, half this size and no updates since probably the 1970s, but once again it didn’t occur to me to take a picture when I should have.

I have gone to Safeway many, many times over the course of my lifetime. Many times. And when I go in, I almost always turn to the right, and then I go up one aisle and down the next until I reach the left-hand side of the store, at which point I head to check-out. So why, yesterday, when there were arrows on the floor instructing me to do just what I always do, did I feel so constricted?

This is part of what I’ve been asking for, demanding, even: measures to make me feel safer at the businesses the county hasn’t bothered to regulate at all while strangling everyone smaller. The county still isn’t regulating, but I did realize just this morning that I ought to be directing some of my anger toward the companies themselves, most of whom have been extremely slow to concern themselves for the safety of both their customers and employees.

It’s entirely possible that Saturday — a month after downtown was brought to a standstill — City Market may have started counting the number of people shopping in its store at any one moment. But I can’t tell you for sure because I haven’t been to City Market in weeks.

I did, as you perhaps have inferred, make my second post-virus-onset trip to Safeway yesterday, shopping the safe way. I will also let you in on my secret for easy social distancing at a grocery: go during the afternoon of Easter Sunday. I’m going to make that my game plan going forward.

I followed the arrows and waited my turn in a couple of aisles, but I hit my biggest dilemma in the cereal aisle. Before I even went in the store there was a note on the door sternly (I felt) lecturing me to take only what I need and not hoard. But there before the Cheerios was a sale offer. To take advantage of it, I had to buy two boxes. And they were big boxes.

I do eat a lot of Cheerios, and no one cast aspersions on me as I went along, overfilling the small cart I had selected because my list wasn’t very long, but I still felt like I was wearing the red brand upon my cloak, the H that might cause my community to shun me. Hester Prynne, I finally feel your pain! (If I’ve lost you, you clearly don’t remember your junior year in English when The Scarlet Letter was forced upon you.)

One of my friends named Nancy, in that semi-lucky cohort of those over 60, hasn’t had to go much past the City Market parking lot since this — debacle seems as apt as any word I might choose — began. Yesterday morning, via Skype, she said that she is really liking the on-line order service offered (currently only to people 60-plus) by City Market, and she may continue to utilize it, even after — if we can ever see that far into the future — Lockdown ends.

In her analysis, the service might appear to be costing her a dollar here or there, because the grocery pickers have less hesitation about substituting brands than she herself might, but that is probably balanced out, she decided, by the absolute lack of impulse purchases in her cart. This is bad news for her chip-less husband Pete, but Nancy seemed to regard this as an overall plus.

Which I thought about, every single one-way aisle I rolled along in Safeway. I thought about it as I added to my cart Kind peanut butter bars that are only kind of good. (At home, unpacking, Lynn informed me I already had some, to which I had to inform her that those were honey and oats, which is not the same at all.)

I thought about it as I plunked corn, not on the list, into the cart alongside the peas, on the list. It crossed my mind as I put a quart of Gatorade Zero, pink instead of red, in the cart. And when I got not one but two kinds of 90-second rice from someone’s Uncle Ben.

Popcorn wasn’t on my list, and neither were hot dog buns. And yet somehow, there they both were, nestled snugly in the cart next to the bananas that will replace the last bunch we didn’t eat in a timely fashion. Tri-color pasta, which was sitting on the shelf just under pasta shaped like wheels. How could I say no to either?

But I want you to be proud of me: I did not buy any toys, although I did triple up on the Reese’s Easter candy (three for $9!).

I did not remember to buy the shower-cleaner stuff, which was supposed to be on my list but didn’t make it. I might have remembered, had I completed my tour of the store. But I looked at all the one-way aisles ahead of me (yes, I know I was under no obligation to go down any of them), thought ahead to everything awaiting me in the final aisle (I’m talking about you, cookies and crackers) and decided I should quit while I wasn’t even remotely ahead.

And left the store with a pile of bargains that didn’t cost any more than $126. I have no idea why Lynn lets me go to the store, ever.

Which I think means that while I continue to find fault in this gaping hole in our social distancing safety net, I now have to spread the blame around to include Lynn. To keep all of us as safe as possible, she should really make me stay home when it comes to grocery shopping. Our pocketbook may depend on it.

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