Part of me can’t believe that I am writing about grocery shopping again. But, I guess it makes sense because in the last six weeks the only place I’ve gone is the grocery store – and even then only three times. Luckily (?), grocery shopping these days provides plenty of fodder to write about.
So, I gathered my courage and made a grocery store run over the weekend. What a nightmare! Seriously – what is wrong with our [grocery store]? I’m not one for public shaming. In fact, if anything I am constantly reminding others that this is not the time to judge. I also know that grocery stores serve a vital need in society and they are on the front lines during these challenging times. Employees are underpaid and not adequately trained. They are working long hours in dangerous conditions. I hate to complain. But seriously . . . the lack of adherence to best practices in public health are so ridiculous that I can’t stand it.
First off, even today the vast majority of employees were still NOT wearing masks. And by vast majority I mean all but two of the team members that I saw on my visit. A couple of weeks ago (on my last outing) this wouldn’t have even registered with me; but, for the past two weeks we have been on a steady march toward becoming a mask-wearing society. Apparently [the grocery store] didn’t get the memo.
Look, I know it’s confusing . . .
- First the CDC told us NOT to wear masks.
- They warned us that masks could not protect us and needed to be saved for health care workers.
- Then they told us maybe we should wear masks. But only if we wanted to. Maybe they could protect us a little bit. But we definitely should not wear N95 or surgical masks.
- Then they encouraged us to wear masks – not to protect ourselves, but to protect other in case we were unknowingly carrying the virus. They showed us lots of DIY options.
- Then the states jumped on board and suggested wearing masks whenever we left our homes.
- Then Governor Wolf came out and said Pennsylvanians must wear masks if we are going out in public.
Or did he? I guess I don’t know. I’m still confused.
Okay, so only two employees were in masks. And for some reason many of the employees still feel the need to maintain physical closeness. Not to me, thank goodness – the only employee who came into my personal space, repeatedly, because of the &@$%^# self-checkout asked me if she could approach before she came over to help – all seven times. I truly appreciated her directness and conscientious behavior.
But so many other employees were standing shoulder to shoulder and gossiping about the latest delivery of toilet paper, which lottery tickets were due to hit, and how many plants they could ethically stash in the back to take home to their families. To which I’d gladly answer, “All the plants, you put yourselves at risk everyday so we can buy food. Take as many plants as you want. Take them all. But for the LOVE OF GOD, SIX FEET APART PEOPLE! SIX FEET APART!”
Since my last trip to the grocery store sixteen days ago a few things have changed.
A police officer is now stationed at the entrance to the store, ostensibly to prevent pedestrian traffic from going the wrong way or to protect unruly shoppers from violating social distancing requirements. Or maybe to prevent someone from buying too many jars of pasta sauce. I’m really not sure what his purpose is. He does effectively prevents people from re-entering the produce section once they have cleared that area of the store, at least by way of the customer service desk route.
(Incidentally, the customer service desk, is closed for “our safety”. Yup – I have perhaps never seen a more appropriate display of customer service than that at [our grocery store].)
People can, and do, still mill about all willy nilly throughout the rest of the store. Trust me, I’m not advocating for more policing of the grocery store. I definitely do not want to live in a society where my bread, cheese, yogurt and, yes, wine purchases are surveilled by the government. I just question what the presence of one officer in a currently underutilized area does other than “scare” people into conforming – although conforming with what is still unclear.
The patrons, unlike the employees, are mostly masked, due in part I imagine to the fact that we were told we cannot enter a store unless we are masked. Here we go with the masks again . . . .
Personally, I have no issue with wearing masks. My family purchased them before it was the law of the land and in the rare event that we venture out into society where we may cross paths with other people we don them happily. My husband purchased masks for his employees and mandated them at the workplace before it was required. I am not anti-mask. In fact, I think that the countries who have had the most success in minimizing the impact of the virus were largely mask-wearing countries. But I am anti-hypocrisy, anti-contradictory information, and anti the mass confusion that results from these ever changing and incomprehensible policies that apply only to some members of society.
Another change I noticed was that in addition to the tape on the floor clearly delineating the queue at 6 foot increments there are now arrows taped to the floor to move shoppers in a single direction down the aisles. This is long overdue.
And also hugely ineffective.
The aisles and endcaps remain cluttered with miscellaneous displays of s’mores ingredients, sugary cereals, picnic supplies and countless other extraneous items that I presume are meant to trigger impulse buying. If any of these items were rationally-related to easing the pains of quarantine I might get it. But with millions of Americans out of work and money in short supply I don’t see too many people stocking up on stale Christmas cookies and leftover wrapping paper, exorbitantly priced (even by pre-Covid-19 standards) hand-carved wooden spoons and/or animal shaped beach towels.
If these items are big sellers and bringing in extra revenue to the store, might I suggest they, at least temporarily, house them on the empty shelves in the toilet paper and cleaning supply aisles?
Many of the shoppers appear to remain blissfully unaware that we in the midst of a pubic health crisis. Either that or they truly believe their bandana, t-shirt and other DIY masks are offering them full protection from the virus. One woman banged her cart into my back three times – which we all know only put her three feet behind me and not the recommended six feet. I grimaced and ignored her because given her close proximity I didn’t want to get into a discussion. But apparently, when I didn’t heed her signal to hurry along, she abandoned even the relative distance of the cart and tapped me on the shoulder as I was digging for the last box of French Roast K-Cups from the very back of the shelf.
My first thoughts were : Did someone just touch me? At the grocery store? During a global pandemic?
Quickly followed by: I’m not leaving here without my coffee.
I forced myself to take a deep breath as I slowly turned my head while simultaneously leaning back into the grocery store shelves. I looked up at her from my awkward angle and she glared at me. Mustering every ounce of patience I possessed, which is not much these days, I said, “Yes?” glad she couldn’t see the snarl behind my mask. (Perhaps these masks are growing on me).
“I need to get in there,” she said, rolling her eyes at me and pointing at the shelf full of coffee. Oh, well in that case . . . . I guess I missed the memo where her coffee needs were superior to mine. I [somewhat] kindly asked her to please back up while I collected my cart and ran out of her way.
Overall, the trip was a success. An anxiety-producing experience of inconsistency and stupidity, but in terms of groceries I did manage to find most of what I needed. I even got a multipack of paper towels (my preferred brand) and tissues. So I’d consider that a win. But now I am exhausted.
I wonder if 1 p.m. is too early for a drink?
Oh – and just for the record. It’s snowing again today.
Stay safe (away from the grocery store if at all possible).