Covid-19 diary: Part 7

April 22, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
April 22, 2020

It was overcast and breezy with the occasional light drizzle when I set out for Shoprite to get some much-needed groceries on the afternoon of Thursday, April 9. I took a scenic route to the store and arrived right around 3 p.m., which is when I was supposed to be able to pick up the order I’d placed early on Tuesday, April 1.

I wanted to do my best to be protected even while using this relatively safe method of acquiring food. I had a scarf wrapped around my face, including my nose. Over that, I wore the — take your pick: neck covering, neck gaiter, neck warmer, neckup — that I’d had on my journeys to the veterinarian’s office the previous week.

There was a problem almost as soon as I entered the parking lot: I had no idea where to pick up the groceries. I asked a guy who looked like he might work at the store — he seemed to be an attendant for the bottle and can redemption machine, which may not be an official position — but he told me he had no idea. I parked and called the store, whereupon I was told that they didn’t actually have curbside pickup per se and I’d have to go inside.

So be it. I pulled on a pair of disposable gloves, got out of the car and ventured into the supermarket.

The exterior doors had been locked near the produce department. It turned out that the grocery pickup was located off the foyer of that blocked entrance, which I finally realized after asking two workers inside the business.

There was another complication, as I discovered when I located the right office. When I told them that I was there to pick up an order for Milliken, no one knew what I was talking about.

I found the standing around to be very awkward. Somewhat to my surprise, it was warm enough inside the store that I began sweating a bit. Even worse, people kept on walking in and out of the door of the office where I was hovering. Some had their faces covered and some didn’t, but everyone made me worry about catching coronavirus.

Now, I do plenty of stupid things, but I’m not a complete idiot. I had an emailed confirmation that included an order number. What’s more, as I verified this once again on my phone while standing there, I had indeed come at the right time slot for my pickup.

I stood around for several minutes before it was determined that my order was on the website but somehow hadn’t been downloaded to the store the previous night. I don’t know why other people’s orders had been downloaded while mine had been overlooked, but what can you do?

The employee was apologetic and asked if I could come back in an hour or so. Since I was already there, however, I figured I might as well do the shopping myself. I asked for a printout of my shopping list, but she was unable to produce it after another five minutes or so of waiting. I said that I’d use my phone and asked the worker to make sure that I wasn’t charged for the grocery pickup items that hadn’t been picked up. I was assured that this would not be an issue.

Off I went. I found it difficult to consult my phone, which is why I’d wanted the printout, but I ended up getting a bunch of things that were on our list. (I came up short in the vegetable department, it later emerged.)

Checking out was strange, and not just because of the way the line was staged, with customers waiting across an aisle at a distance of eight to 10 feet from the actual purchase lane. (There was hardly anyone in line, happily.) Shoppers were supposed to wait until the previous customer had left before moving into the lane and beginning to unload carts. Also, a clear plastic shield about four feet high separated the cashier from customers, protecting us from their microscopic nasties and them from our microscopic nasties.

I had a weird moment after the cashier began ringing up my groceries when I suddenly realized that there was nothing for me to put my purchases into. “Oh, I didn’t bring any bags,” I muttered aloud, which concerned the clerk not at all.

I believe supermarkets have asked customers not to bring their own bags in an effort to cut down on possible contamination issues. But it later occurred to me that the New York legislature banned most single-use plastic bags last year. My theory is that due to this law Shoprite hadn’t stocked any — or at least enough — plastic bags. The ban took effect March 1, although enforcement has been delayed at least until May due to the pandemic.

At any rate, all my purchases were put back into my cart unbagged; I tucked in my receipt, too. (Naturally I’d paid with a credit card.) Then I trundled back out to the parking lot and to the car, which I loaded up.

This seemingly routine task proved to be a bit trickier than normal. Although it was sunny, the wind had picked up quite a bit, and I had to grab my cart at least once. As I transferred the foodstuff, I fretted over whether I might be contaminating the trunk. I knew that in most temperatures coronavirus doesn’t last long on surfaces other than plastic or steel, so that was something of a relief.

When everything was in, I returned the cart to a collection point, got behind the wheel and started up. I wasn’t able to drive straight home, however. I pulled into an empty bank parking lot because there was a red light on the dashboard. I walked behind the vehicle to make sure the doors were all properly closed without spotting a problem.

I pulled back onto the road before I noticing that a warning light was still lit on the panel. I peered more closely and saw that it was an indicator for the trunk hatch. I drove home half expecting the thing to pop open. But it stayed shut, and I neither heard nor saw anything out of the ordinary except for the dash light.

Having arrived at my parent’s house, there was now the matter of getting stuff out of the car and safely stored. Lucky the Labrador retriever, who is extremely food–motivated, was leashed to a piece of furniture; the sink and drying area had already been cleared. I ended up bringing things onto the peninsula, washing them with soap and hot water (or just hot water for fruit and vegetables), leaving them in the drying rack or wiping them down, transferring them to bins, and having my uncontaminated parent put away the sanitized items.

There was, believe you me, a whole lot of hand-washing on my part during this process, which I found by far to be the most anxiety-inducing part of the day. At one point, I yelled at my parent to go away — my progenitor had been hovering by my shoulder, which made me concerned over the possibility of P.U. inhaling coronavirus.

When all the food had been unloaded from the car and made as safe as seemed possible, I went outside, removed my sneakers and left them. Then I stepped back into the house and stripped off all my clothes, including my face coverings. Everything went into the washing machine on top of my jacket, which I’d put it in shortly after getting back to the house. (The jacket in turn was lying on a regular load of laundry that I’d inserted before going to the store.)

I swabbed down a few things with a sanitary wipe before heading upstairs to shower. I used the wipe, which I was still holding, to open the bathroom door and turn on the faucet. Once I finished showering, I dressed and went back downstairs, where I tossed the towel in the laundry and started the wash.

And then all that was left to do was put away the rest of the groceries, take care of the laundry and talk myself down from the high-anxiety ledge that my brain had been perched upon throughout the most nerve-wracking shopping expedition of my life. Pandemic life — ain’t it amazing?

2 Responses to “Covid-19 diary: Part 7”

  1. teresa Says:

    Are you living in NY or just there because of quarantine?
    When I go to NJ, I will sometimes go to Shoprite but I find out that it is hopeless to talk to anyone that works in the store. They just tend to ignore you and are extremely rude. Take good care…

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