Officially, itâ€™s Stay at Home. Not the active shooter Shelter in Place or the prison inspired â€œlockdown.â€ And since Geezer Bill is not sick, itâ€™s not a quarantine.
I break out twice a day. Once, in the early morning, with the sun already above the horizon to pick up the Wall Street Journal laying in my driveway. Yes, I could read it online. But going out to gather the newsprint version provides a daily introduction to my street. BTV (Before the Virus) I could see walkers, joggers, cars with still-employed retirees on their way to work, and trucks; trucks with gardeners and their rattling rakes and blowers; trucks with roofers, remodelers, and cable-tv installers. Now, my street is empty.
I break out again later in the afternoon. I amble to my mail box to discover what treasures the postal service has put there. On Tuesdays the treasures are colorful advertisements for the local grocery stores. Itâ€™s good to know they are still in business and still offering sales. They will be one of the last capitalists standing.
Grocery shopping was, BTV, a once-weekly task. Now it has taken on a life of its own. It is an event for which a battle plan is required.
My first option was home delivery. Fruitless attempts were made to try and find a date when the groceries, which I had not even selected yet, could be delivered. â€œNo date available,â€ became a persistent onscreen phrase.
Pick up was a second option. I found the online selection was limited. After much work and agreeing to “substitutions” I didn’t really care for I finally had selected at least some of what I needed. (No, not toilet paper.) Two days later, when I was allowed to pick up, I had to wait 20 minutes for my order to come out. I decided the stores were now overwhelmed with pickers combing the aisles. On to the third option â€“ actually entering a grocery store.
Thatâ€™s a great option for the senior early risers who grind their coffee beans in the dark waiting for the sun to rise. But Iâ€™m not an early riser. While my peers are the galloping ghosts of grocery store senior hour, Iâ€™m still brushing my teeth.
Which means shopping with the masses. Which means determining when the fewest number of my fellow humans will be attempting to shop for groceries. My first trip, I was able to score a fifth in line and got in the store within five minutes.
Now this was in the time before face masks so I could see peopleâ€™s faces. The idea, however, was to avoid getting close enough to see anyoneâ€™s face. Thatâ€™s why I chose a store I knew had wide aisles. I could move far left or right depending on the circumstances. Aisle navigation, not an often taught subject, had taken on the mantle of a science, or was it an art? It would certainly be part of anyone’s grocery shopping battle plan.
The paper aisle, of course, had empty shelves. Paper hoarding will become a thesis topic for some future enterprising PhD candidate. But there were other gaping holes in the early days of shelter in place.
Packaged meats, once the evil enemy of nitrate haters, were missing. Frozen dinners, a sore memory from the early days of rabbit-eared TVs â€“ gone. Fresh chicken was out the day I first went shopping. And the meat section took up about half its normal width in the meat case.
“One steak per person,” the butcher said.
“But there are two of us,” I pleaded
“Cut it in half,” he advised.
Although the chickens were missing, they had produced eggs. Not a lot, but with a limit of one carton per person I could purchase a dozen cage-free eggs. I donâ€™t normally buy cage-free eggs, but heck, why not give them a try. Especially with no other egg options.
At the deli counter there was red tape on the floor. I wondered at first if it was a crime scene. But no, that was just to keep customers from touching the glass deli counter. I had never thought before about all the hands that touch that glass enclosure. From now on, I will keep my distance. I thought the person behind the counter might throw me the one pound package of sliced turkey I bought, but she actually handed it to me with her plastic glove-encased hands. My outstretched ungloved hands leaned over the red tape to gratefully grab the package.
I still go out to grocery shop. But now I wear a mask. I discovered a cache in the closet with medical supplies left over from a hospital visit. Much like those hospital socks they insist you take home from the hospital (and charge for), I had probably paid for them during a previous stay. Sometimes it pays to be a pack rat.
With masks required, there are actually fewer people in the store. We have also all become more adept at aisle management including backing out of an aisle that has too many carts. I actually did see two teenage girls, shopping together, with no masks on. I donâ€™t know their story. Maybe theyâ€™ve already had the virus. But I sure hope theyâ€™re not going to deliver the groceries in their cart to grandmaâ€™s house.