The last time I left the house was over a month ago when I had root canal done in early March. With the root canal as my most recent memory of being out, I got up at first light to prepare to conquer senior-hour at the grocery store. Selecting my costume carefully for washability and impermeability, I dressed in jeans and a turtleneck covered by a long cotton shirt under my cotton farm coat. I’d laundered the manure out of the coat last week. I have a designer scarf to cover my hair that I pulled up in a ponytail. I considered going without the head-scarf but remembered I’m short. Short people problem: Other people’s coughs and sneezes fall in your hair.
Driving like an old lady, which on my island means doing the speed limit, I joined a parade of cars all nicely social-distanced heading for the local supermarket. Even when people were commuting, we seldom had that much traffic at six-thirty in the morning. We parked taking every other space in the lot.
The store puts tags on the freshly washed carts so we knew nobody had touched them after they were washed. The store’s sanitary wipes had been replaced by an industrial sized bottle of Purell, and the hunt was on. My first score of the day was a loaf of artisan bread. The cheap bread was gone, but the store still had the expensive stuff.
Navigating six feet from other humans quickly became a challenge. First, there were the studiers, those who seemed to think social-distancing means standing in the middle of an aisle and studying the list the wife gave you, effectively blocking off most of one aisle.
The dreamers slowly wander the aisle gazing lovingly at the array of limited choices before them. They didn’t have much in their carts, so I assumed they were just at the store to get away from their spouse. Their few groceries were simply props. They weren’t too bad about taking up space but they moved so slow.
Today, I witnessed the man-spread taken to a new level that can best be called an art form. Okay, nobody is getting within six feet of these guys with their carts parked at an angle, feet apart and elbows out. They were keeping a certain distance between them and their cart barricade. As long as everybody traveled in the same direction, the cart-barrier-man-spread was reasonably effective at maintaining social-distance.
We had a group of shoppers who operated on a business-as-usual-in-facemarks mode. Social-distancing was a lost concept for them. I’d find three or four of them forming a traffic-jam in the middle of an aisle, while the social-distancing shoppers waited for them to clear the aisle.
My style was dash and pounce. I liked the other dash-and-pouncers. We’d wait, socially-distanced, with our carts at the end of an aisle away from traffic and search out our prey. We’d wait for the aisle to clear of other shoppers between us and our prey, and dash down the aisle, grabbing our items on the way, only pausing to double and triple check that the store really was out of yeast. I noticed the store personnel who were shopping for the curb-side customers, tended to use the dash-and-pounce method.
So the studiers, dreamers, the man-spreaders, business-as-usual-in-a-face-mask, and dash-and-pouncers are making their way up and down the aisles traveling in mostly the same direction, maintaining social distance or not. We had one not-so-old guy slowly going the wrong way on the one-way aisles. He messed up everybody, who was trying to social distance. Women, if hubby doesn’t normally know how to use the supermarket, do not send him to the grocery store, even if he is making you crazy. He’s a hazard.
I’m not really prejudiced against men in the store. Half the people in the store were men and they did just fine, seeming to be somewhat familiar with the social norms of using a supermarket. I felt somewhat sorry for the indecisive man standing in front of the soy sauce, list in hand, knowing that if you touch it, you have to buy it. He reached his hand towards the soy sauce and let it hover while consulting the list in his other hand. I stood at the end of the aisle waiting for him to clear the aisle. He drew his hand back. I waited. He stared at his list and reached toward the organic soy sauce again. Again, he hovered and drew his hand back. I waited and thought here is fodder for a character in a book. For the fourth time, he reached toward his prize. I held my breath. Would he take it? Would he? His hand hovered. He raised a finger, languidly pointing at the bottle just bare inches from his hand. A line of socially-distanced shoppers stood behind me waiting to use the aisle. I bit my lip and watched his hand. Yes! Yes. He took the bottle. He purchased the organic soy sauce and cleared the aisle. I was able to dash down and grab one of the last bags of rice.
Once I finished my shopping, I found the store has installed a huge clear plastic divider between the customer and the checker, leaving the customers no place to set their purse while digging out money.
My whole reason for going into the store instead of using the curbside pick-up was that I get paid in cash for my flowers. I have to make an appointment with the bank to deposit my cash, so I decided I might as well take the cash to the store. I get paid in fives and ones and had just purchased three hundred dollars worth of groceries. I apologized. “I’m sorry for all the counting, but this is from my farm stand. I did take all the money home and wash it in hot soapy water, then I ironed it.” I handed the poor checker my crisp cleaned bills that had obviously been washed and ironed. Fortunately they were easy to count—not being crumpled up.
He laughed and assured me, “These are nicer than what we get from the bank.”
I felt like the Lion Queen as I hauled the fruit of my hunt home.