Grocery shopping during these COVID times…an adventure

Having been out of the country and then in quarantine for 14 days, our food supply in our house was seriously depleted. Time to bravely venture out to the store to get some groceries. I had not been to our local grocery store in three months. The atmosphere had certainly changed. While isolated indoors, we had been inundated with the COVID news and to be wary of what was out there. It had even become frightening to go out the front door now. But food was a necessity.

I had already placed an order for express pick up. However, the first available time slot was two weeks away. Yes, there were deliveries, but I needed things now. So, I needed to go myself.

Seniors shopping has a reserved time, early in the morning, barely after sunrise. Taking the opportunity to shop at our reserved seniors’ hour, the alarm was set, 6 am. Goal, to line up before the store doors opened at 7 am. I wonder what grocery executive thinks that seniors like getting up this early in the morning anyway? It was a dry, chilly morning, typical for an early April spring morning in Canada.

Donning disposable gloves, a mask, and protective glasses, I prepared myself for the unexpected. Like a warrior about to combat an unfamiliar foe, mine, a shopping cart that may not have been thoroughly cleaned.

I got in line, behind other senior shoppers ready with their carts, all wearing protective gear to varying degrees, some masked, some wearing gloves, some completely without protective duds. Everyone queued up six feet behind the other and waited for the magic words, “open sesame.” To entertain us in this early morning atmosphere, some birds were cheerily chirping in the nearby trees, inattentive to the silent line of humans below. The motor of some lone passing car the only sound, louder to all of us because everything else was so quiet. No voices, no conversation, no one talking. Maybe we were all still trying to wake up. The standees were silent. The lineup was silent. The morning was silent. Only the birds and one car driver hadn’t received the instructions about grocery shopping protocol these days.

OK. Doors opened. The manager at the doors, wearing a mask and thankfully in a business suit rather than a hazmat one, welcomed these courageous early morning shoppers inside the store. Everyone hurriedly dispersed to their familiar department to get the necessary needs. Eery silence, no music.

I had prepared my shopping list as a sequential itinerary according to the sequentially laid out departments. It was like going on a travel expedition with the motto ‘walk the least, see the most.’ Applicable now to food shopping in the store, get all my needs from each department. Fruits, vegetables, deli, bakery, meats, fish, dairy all in sequential order as organized by the store. After all who knows best how a grocery store should be laid out?

Then I had to get to the centre aisles, no avoiding that. A new adventure. Big red directional arrows taped to the floor clearly dictating the direction shoppers were to follow. Reasonable, efficient, all well and good, shoppers need not worry about bumping into each other. Social distancing guaranteed.

I needed one item, just it five feet over. But down the wrong aisle. The red arrow told me so with its glaring directional warning. Like driving down a one-way street. Don’t go the wrong way. So, down another aisle, I scurried around and all the way back, up to the next aisle. This forced directional restriction quickly became a bit of time waster as I learned the navigation route at this inhumanly early hour of the morning.

Then I noticed how some shelf sections were completely empty. Milk, only had two bags, eggs, minimal selection of sizes. Toilet paper? No problem. I guessed that by now the previous hoarders had a well-stocked pantry back home with this product.

Were there people in the store? The atmosphere sounded eerily silent. A lot of emptiness and no voices. Empty aisles, for the most part, partially empty shelves and no elevator music to charm us into buying more.

Maybe the shelves hadn’t been restocked yet. After all, some people need more sleep than us senior shoppers. Another thought as I meandered down the aisle, was this what it was like in the wartime or under certain government regimes where people never know what is available on any given day?

All my necessary shopping done, the next hurdle, paying. WOW. The cash register line up was so long! Where did all these senior shoppers come from? More importantly, how in the heck has they got ahead of me so quickly? Luckily, the self-checkout had a much shorter wait. I moved over and paid for my goods, appreciative of the COVID grocery shopping ordeal coming to an end.

Coming out of the store into the fresh morning air was a nice relief. I loaded the trunk with my treasure of groceries. As I removed my disposable gloves, my knees nearly buckled. The gloves were surprisingly dirty. The image of how dirty my ungloved fingers might have become in the old days horrified me. Gloves may become the new norm in all future shopping once this pandemic time ends, soon, I hope.

Next, major and new undertaking once I arrive at home, disinfecting all the purchases.

Thank goodness my next shopping order was for express pick up another whole new experience! For another story.


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