I went to the grocery store for the first time in... over five weeks?
It was too soon. As usual I was pushing too hard. I don’t think I was psychologically prepared for full immersion yet. Several hours later, I’m sitting on the couch checking my Apple Watch because I’m having chest pains, hoping it’s “just stress.”
The last time I went to the grocery store, there were disinfecting wipes (new addition) and the checkers were wearing gloves, but nobody was wearing masks yet. The shelves were almost entirely empty in every single aisle, except the produce department. That had been the status quo for weeks and every chain was the same.
Hubby took me, so he could teach me about all the changes over the past month.
You probably already know what it was like today, but I hadn’t yet seen the capacity sign out front (150), the arrows on the floor, the acrylic sneeze guards at the checkout stands, the checkers wearing double masks.
It was surprising and reassuring to see that everything was fully stocked besides the TP, but then our store was always low in that aisle for some reason. Also, there was no line coiled around the front of the store, which I had been hearing was an issue. It could have been worse.
What I wasn’t expecting - although I probably should have been - was what a shoddy F- effort the other patrons were making at pretending to social distance.
It wasn’t technically possible to stay six feet away from people in the first place, partly because the staff were bustling around getting near people. When you stand in line, the clerk in the next aisle is only two feet behind you. I’m sure they don’t like it either.
While the aisles are set up like one-way streets, with stickers asking for a two-cart-length spacing, the aisles across the front and back of the store are packed. Also, patrons seem to feel totally free to go up the wrong direction, do U-turns and pass again in the same aisle, or linger two feet away from whomever.
I started feeling the jacked-up cortisol level I used to get in the shark pit in Krav.
Want to punch something / don’t want to get knuckles dirty
The worst offenders were the Gen Y males. For some reason the store was crawling with half a dozen of them, all in shorts, tank tops, and bandanna masks. Clearly they have no fox to give.
I’m decades too young to go during the morning senior hours but I have no intention of ever visiting the store again when these kids are going to be there en masse. You’re not worried, bully for you.
There should be some widely recognized sumptuary signal of survivor status. I want to be able to point forcefully at it without having to try to talk through my mask. HEY!!! STEP BACK PLEASE
But nobody is looking at anybody else. You might as well be a stack of cans or a cardboard display module.
About my mask(s):
One of our astronaut friends brought us these 3D-printed prototype N95 masks. (Privilege) Heat them up with a hair dryer to soften and mold the plastic. The rectangle on the front pops off and you can replace the filter material, which is cut from larger HVAC filters. We had to make the straps ourselves and fortunately had some elastic in the sewing box.
Also on our model is a pair of standard safety glasses, ransacked from kickboxing bag, originally purchased for knife fighting practice.
Top layer: You know those plastic packages for sheets and blankets? The kind with the zipper? I happened to have one in the closet. Cut it up, clipped it to a fabric hair band with bobby pins to check the fit. After this test run I brought it home and shaped the edges into more of an oval. It makes sense that the professional-grade versions have that foam headband, because it could really use more space between the plastic and my face.
I was the only person in the store wearing remotely that much gear, but nobody said anything or pointed or stared at me. Or backed away slowly and gave me a wide berth, which is what I was hoping would happen.
Do I feel like I went over the top? HECK NO
I want to make other people feel like they missed a news update, that they are underprepared, the same way you feel when you pull up to the beach and see someone going back to his car with a cherry-red sunburn. UHOH
More than that, of course, I want to be as protected as possible when hoi polloi insist on scooting within two feet of me, no apologies, no hesitation. Rear elbow strike? Again, don’t want to get elbow dirty
I should not be close enough to you to start throwing hands
Now that I’m out of quarantine, I’ve been outside twice, and I am rethinking my entire pandemic strategy.
My region is statistically highly suspect. Field notes confirm this is just the standard here. People are NOT being careful or respectful, and by ‘people’ I mean both the young and the elderly. Hubby tells me that on at least two occasions, people 60+ have come up right behind him and immediately coughed.
In different circumstances, I would solve my social issues by simply going to the store after 11 PM. That’s not an option, which is okay; I can accept whatever constraints it takes to keep the workers as safe and healthy as possible. I know they obviously have to deal with this stuff all day, every day, and it isn’t fair.
I’ve already decided that I am not going outside for exercise again, not while this stuff is going on. I’m just going to walk laps in the parking garage under our building.
What am I going to do about groceries? It’s not very fair to my hubby to expect him to do all the shopping, especially because males are more at risk from the virus.
Not sure yet.
I’m going to do what I always do when confronted with a thorny persistent problem. I’m going to research it, puzzle over it, reframe it, and try to come up with alternative approaches. The first one is going to be delaying supply runs as long as humanly possible. The second is to try to find a time slot that is less congested. The third might be buying a scythe - just for decoration of course.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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