On March 25th, 2020, the first cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in my home town. On that day, we here began to fully understand that the virus could attack Canada and even our modest out-of-the-way city of Sarnia.
March 25th. Before many of us became familiar with ordering groceries online for scheduled parking lot pickup, or with debates about whether to call our interactions “social distancing” or “physical distancing”; or with words such as “asymptomatic”. It was also before we heard about “essential businesses”; or saw Plexiglass barriers at retail store check-outs; or whether or not we should resort to acting as our own barbers. Or young children being able to pronounce, and sometimes spell, “super dumb coronavirus”.
As the COVID misfortune unfolds, our world looks and feels very different than it did “way back then”. So, for the record, here is what grocery shopping looked like for one Sarnia Senior on March 27, 2020.
She parked the car just before 7:00 am, the advertised Senior Shopping Hour at her usual grocery store. She used wipes to clean off her Debit Card, and tucked the card in her pocket.
They were already letting people in. Just inside the store, two employees were greeting shoppers. One was cleaning off the cart handles and the other, the Assistant Manager, was asking people how he could help them.
He noticed she was having difficulty wrenching one stuck cart apart from another, so he helped her pull it out.
With both hands wrapped inside plastic grocery bags, she grasped her cart handle and walked with purpose past the table with hand sanitizer pumps available for customers to use.
Her priority was paper towels, so she headed there first, without much hope. Already there were reports of shortages. Unexpected success! Then on to the toilet paper. Again, success! It must be said neither of these products was her preferred brand, but the product brand had become far less important to her beginning that day.
Next, hand sanitizer. No luck, you guessed it. And there were other things on her list she couldn’t find. But she was able to buy milk, and a few other essentials such as HELLO! Magazine.
There were signs of thoughtfulness. The store had posted “Limit of 2” notices around. And most other customers were considerate. Tall people reached packages for shorter people. Still, there are stories told by store staff of customers blowing up over the lack of something or other. This was their “second trip to the store” was the kind of thing they said. “What’s the matter with you people?” and so forth. Not one of those windbags, though, offered to do the store employees’ impossible and, in those days, generally unappreciated jobs.
When it came time to check out, that too was well-organized. Our shopper was directed by a courteous clipboard holding employee, to her designated checkout line. The line was so long she had to push her cart down one aisle and up another to reach her spot.
Customers were very good at staying 6 feet apart. Before she arrived at the checkout conveyor belt, there was a heavy black line drawn on the floor, about 6 feet from the belt, where she was to wait while the person in front of her was buying her groceries. Once the customer in front of her at customer moved off, our shopper stepped forward to another heavy black line on the floor where she stopped and watched the cashier wiped down the conveyor belt with some pretty strong-smelling stuff.
Finally her turn. She bagged her groceries and paid by tapping with her wiped-clean Debit Card. Rather than put the card back in her pocket after use, she put it in the fold of her shopping list. Back in the car, she took the card out of the fold, used wipes again to clean it, and only then returned it to her wallet.
March 27, 2020. One person’s unexpected shopping experience. Hard to say what the new normal will look like.