Venturing Out

Yesterday morning, I went to the grocery store. In the good old days of, say, last month, I would try my best to confine myself to one weekly shopping trip, but something always got in the way. I’d forget a crucial ingredient, or some daughter would request some item that she needed urgently, we’d run out of fruit (you know how my family feels about fruit), or I’d have to hit a few different stores to get everything on my list. Sigh. Those days are over.

The last few times I’d shopped before everything went nutty, it was uncanny how I was clearly sharing the same wavelength as a certain segment of the population who was already planning ahead Just In Case. My usual Muir Glen tomatoes, my Teddy Bear natural peanut butter, and other products had disappeared. A few weeks ago, now, I grabbed a jumbo bag of brown rice and a man asked me, “Why on earth is all of the rice gone?”

The last time I shopped before this week, I fully expected that I wouldn’t set foot into a grocery store again anytime soon. My plan was to go Hannaford To Go, and I was not psyched when they suspended this service. The New Revised Plan was that I’d go as soon as the store opened on Monday.

It was weird how much I really didn’t like going into the store. Like, my body had a visceral reaction to a threat. Cute W and I were laughing about how, lately, if we do find ourselves in a public space, which isn’t often, we find ourselves subconsciously breathing with shallow breaths. Not that that helps! For my shopping trip, I brought along gloves. Yes, I know washing your hands is better, but it was more of a way to stop myself from subconsciously brushing the hair out of my eyes. And I brought extra wipes for the cart in case the store didn’t have them like usual (they did). And then I went into the store like I was going into battle.

Instead of beginning with my usual leisurely stroll through the produce aisle, I hightailed it to paper products and cleaning supplies, just to see what was available. Items were limited to 2 packages per customer, but it was more limited by inventory. Anything vaguely germ-fighting among the cleaning products was gone, and my go-to toilet paper brand and my back-up brand were cleaned out. It gives you a sense of the state of emergency that I bought a package of the Cheap-And-Rough, anyway. It’s possible that we could hold out for a week, but maybe there’d be nothing next time. Then I caught a glimpse of the back of the store with empty meat coolers and decided I’d better head there next. The only chicken breasts left were heaped into 10-pound bargain bags, a far cry from the lovely petite containers full of chicken breasts from birds who’ve enjoyed a life of roaming the pasture before eschewing chemicals and water injections in their afterlife. I grabbed a bag while I still could. Ten minutes later I’d walk by again and see that the entire section was empty.

About halfway through my shopping trip, I realized that I was sweating profusely. I just didn’t want to be indoors with people who weren’t in my family at all. It made me wonder a bit if one of the results of this experience will be a rise in agoraphobia. Employees were walking around and stocking shelves, and I couldn’t believe the calm that they projected as they moved about, breathing other people’s exhalations. I mean, obviously, we all have to eat, but it feels awfully selfish to show up at the supermarket and force other people to have to work there. So whenever the guilt overwhelmed me, I’d slather some hand sanitizer over my gloves. Not making my presence any worse is pretty much the least I could do.

At another point, the piped-in music started playing a pop song that’s a favorite with M’s school soccer team, and I started almost getting weepy. Just feeling sad for all of the seniors, but especially sad for the seniors who love a spring sport and won’t get their final season, with all the celebrations and special traditions your senior year would usually bring. For the most part I have avoided the sort of maudlin mourning that I’ve seen a lot of moms of seniors do on social media. There are families losing jobs or with insufficient food, there are healthcare workers working long hours with insufficient protective gear, there are people imprisoned or detained who will be ravaged by this, and so fretting about my daughter and her friends has seemed petty and small-minded. I try not to think too far ahead so that I don’t have to contemplate the potential cancellation of graduation and everything else the kids may miss. But walking the aisles of Hannaford, hyped up on fight-or-flight adrenaline, Miley Cyrus singing to me made me feel like bending over at the waist and bawling.

Anyway, if you are wondering, this is what it looks like when I shop for eight planned dinners, plenty of snacks, and a couple of baking projects:

Along with plenty of food staples, I also scored a couple of coloring books, which seems like it could be a nice calming activity.

When I arrived home, I followed the advice of some expert or other from a radio show and systematically wiped down all of the packaging or washed my produce in soap and water. Altogether, the whole shopping trip was quite a time-consuming endeavor. But I’m hoping that between this and take-out supporting our favorite local restaurants, I won’t have to make another big trip for a week and a half.

I hope we are all still safe and well for next time. And by “we,” I mean all of you, too.


  1. Claire

    Shopping is extremely stressful. Last week when I was unloading my groceries onto the conveyer belt, the woman behind me started unloading her groceries before I was even done. This annoys me under the best of circumstances (believe me, I’m not slow when it comes to unloading my groceries), but it infuriated me even more because it prevented her from keeping 6 feet of distance. I didn’t say anything at the time, but if it happens in the future I will definitely speak up.

  2. Ha, I’ve thought about just wedging myself between 2 shopping carts when I’m in line! Although on this trip people were really good about distancing.

    Yep, 6 feet apart’s the far better option.

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