Stranger Days #9: A Grocery Store Visit

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Welcome to stranger days--my blog series exploring daily life, challenges in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, and just sharing insights or thoughts about how to make it through these days.  

A check out lane at a grocery store.
Look closely and you can see the glass shield
that is now between customer and cashier.
Also, there are taped marks on the floor at 6
feet intervals.  

We all like our routines.  Typically, Saturday mornings entail a sequence of getting up at 5:00am, having coffee, checking email and social media and then working out. I shower and then hit the grocery store just as it opens (7am'ish).  I like shopping at this time. There's barely anyone here and you see the same folks. Small talk with the cashiers and baggers is still possible before they're largely wiped from hours of work. Afterward, I go home, unpack the groceries and make some kind of cooked breakfast involving eggs, veggies, and veggie sausage.

It's a nice routine that reminds me in some ways of my Saturday mornings when I was a kid.  That would often consist of getting up early (again, 5am'ish) to watch Saturday morning cartoons or play video games until my newspapers arrived. I'd then dash off to deliver them, collecting the week's charges, and from there, I'd often hit the comic book shop to peruse and chat. Depending on the day, I might make pancakes before or after the route and continue watching TV or playing games until 11-12p when I figured what to do next (or when friends were finally getting up).  

Of course, the last few Saturdays have been strange trips to the grocery store.  Two Saturdays back as COVID-19 was starting to affect our practices, I was met with some twenty folks already at the grocery store even before I showe dup at 6:55am for a 7am opening.  By the time the store opened, it was closer to forty folks.  We were all friendly and joking, but it was strange, nonetheless.  

Sign on the door to the grocery store that announces new hours.
Last Saturday, when I went the store was clearly struggling to keep things available. I wish I had thought to take pictures then because there was much more absent. Still, I was more surprised that there were fewer people when I arrived at 7:25am (the store had switched to later opening to allow for Seniors to go from 6:00am-7:30am).  It seemed normal over all with the exception that there was lots of missing produce, meat, beans, rice, and pasta.  

This Saturday, it felt weird in its normality. I arrived at 7:00am because I feared the rush and the lines. Friends have mentioned their trips and the challenges it has posed while my social media network also shares stories of lines to get in (6 feet apart) coupled with some limited options.  Well, there were some limited options in parts of the store but not nearly as much I would have thought.  Produce was mostly available, meat was too (while vegetarian, it's worth noting from an observational standpoint--especially given how barren the week before).  Toilet paper was still nonexistent but eggs were available.  Lots of ice-cream and cold desserts were out but they had a good amount of beans.  Pasta was nearly gone but bread was pretty abundant.  

This time, I documented my trip and have included them in the slideshow below. This remains one of the stranger things about all of this. Many of us are used to going to grocery stores that are over-filled with choices (too many choices--hello, cereal aisle, I'm looking at you).  Certain products that are often not ever thought of being important or easy to go out of stock with are missing and it does trigger a sense of concern. When one aisle is lush with soda and snacks but the next is devoid of toilet paper or when there's very little ice cream available, it grabs our attention.  Again, I'm shopping at the opening of the store and it would seem the ideal time of when things are available.  So while I can go in, collect my goods and go out without lines, the signals of things not being ok are still all around.

The grocery store right now feels like a microcosm of the world and the US in particular. It's clear that things aren't right; that different parts are suffering unequally, and that the glaring absence does elevate the concern of others, wondering if when they come in again, what won't be available there.  

Yeah, that's my thought for the day.  What you are experiencing?

Take care. Be careful. Be care-filled.  Welcome to stranger days.

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