It felt like a jailbreak.
I hate food shopping but on Thursday I ventured out to Stop & Shop with my husband – definitely not something we normally do. He has been in charge of keeping the cupboards, refrigerator and pantry stocked for nearly 30 years, a solitary activity. But I was dying to go with him.
We’ve been good about staying inside, more or less. A trip to Calf Pasture for a walk with a friend over the weekend, keeping distance. I did try to give blood in Greenwich earlier in the week on that horribly cold and rainy day.
Was the blood drive only a few days ago? Feels like years. Time passes like it does on vacation, when every day seems to last longer, is more eventful, worth remembering. Now, the days feel longer, but eventful? Hmm. It will be interesting to look back and see what was memorable. And no, this isn’t vacation time, as any parent with school age kids will tell you.
Four people I know have tested positive, all of whom I’d consider healthy. Two are women in their late 30s/early 40s; one was practically asymptomatic while the other is quite sick. The other two, an active couple in their mid-60s, also reacted differently to the virus; she took quite ill while his symptoms were much milder.
Every time I hear a story, my throat gets sore and I develop a headache. Was that a low-grade fever on Sunday, or sunburn from working in the garden? I’ve decided to only worry if I have a fever and cannot smell or taste.
I am talking on the phone much, much more than in the past, with people near and far. Facetiming, ‘happy hour hangouts’ – all are silver linings to this crisis. Making these personal connections beyond the level of texting has been wonderful.
But back to Stop & Shop. Even though we qualify for the Early Bird Senior shopping, neither one of us wants to go that early. We’ve been sleeping longer, later, remembering our dreams more vividly.
Early in the pandemic, I’d wake up trying to pinpoint why it felt like the world was falling apart. And then I’d remember, um yes, it kinda is.
As we pulled into the parking lot, we passed Norwalk Public Schools’ Frank Harris Nutrition Center, and in the distance, I made out buses loaded up for their rounds to feed our school children. #NorwalkProud. #AnotherSilverLining.
Stop & Shop was neither crowded nor empty but it was eerily quiet. Many people were wearing masks and/or gloves, and everyone was keeping their distance. Some aisles were filled with boxes of items to be restocked, while others still looked like the hurricane must be due tomorrow.
While my husband, Gerry, shopped, I chatted with the assistant grocery manager. Other than toilet paper and cleaning supplies, he told me, flour, sugars, yeast and beans are the current hard-to-come-by items.
Funny, two or three days ago I thought it would be a great time to bake bread. Apparently, I’m not alone. Too bad I threw out the year-old yeast in Week #1 when I cleaned out the pantry for the first time in years.
Are suppliers still delivering as they have in the past? He hedged on that question a bit but said yes, maybe not always on the same schedule as they used to. In the aisle behind us, he pointed to shelves newly stocked with pasta and tomato sauce, items that were a scarcity just a few days ago.
As Gerry finished shopping, I looked around. Suddenly I had an inexplicable urge to cry. It’s not that there wasn’t flour or yeast, or that the stupid robot had been following me around.
Standing there, watching people move about without interacting, I felt a bit guilty for having come. To the grocery store. The. Grocery. Store.
As I stood there, I realized how much our lives have changed, how thing will be different going forward. Like 9/11 and Sandy Hook, this crisis will change us. I’m just not sure how. There will certainly be some silver linings, but how long will we feel guilty for grocery shopping?
Thankfully, Gerry signaled me to stop daydreaming and come pack up the groceries. He was unaware of the don’t-bring-your-own-bag policy that Stop & Shop has enacted. (If you do bring your own, you must bag things yourself.) Buzzy, the cashier behind the newly installed Plexiglas, couldn’t have been nicer. We chatted a bit as we packed; he noted that everyone was being incredibly kind. “Only had one person yell at me in two weeks and that was about the toilet paper,” he said.
Ah, yes. The toilet paper. On the way home we stopped for gas (yes, hand sanitizer in the car after touching the gas pump.) I went into the minimart on a reconnaissance mission and bingo! I struck gold. With two rolls more of toilet paper for this non-hoarding household, we should be good – until our next outing at least.