The New Normal
My husband’s alarm goes off at 7:00 AM. I haven’t gotten up this early in over a month. But he has a chiropractor appointment, and we plan to go to the grocery store right after. The earlier we go, the better. That and my husband is not the most rational shopper. The last time he went alone he only came back with ice cream. Before we leave, we have to make sure to dog-proof the house. They are not used to being alone anymore. We have to make sure anything they could tear up is either thrown out or out of reach.
We get to the doctor’s, and I have to stay in the car.
“I would let you wait for me inside, but they are limiting the number of people in the building right now.”
He leaves the car running, and I turn down the radio. The morning hosts are talking about the increase in house fires. People are cooking at home more. Ten minutes later, I spy a woman saying goodbye as she is dropped off to work. She is wearing blue gloves and a face mask. Around the corner, my favorite Chinese take-out restaurant sits shut down and abandoned.
We get to the store. In this shopping center, our regular sushi restaurant is also closed. People are getting out of their cars wearing masks. I feel guilty for not having one.
The store is relatively quiet. The produce section is not bare but stripped of all bagged lettuce. I have to give up hope on fresh spinach. I look at the list my husband and I created last night. Trying to focus on what we need and not get swept up in panic purchases. We fight over potatoes of all things. But they are not on the list, so they don’t make the cut. He makes me put my apples and other produce in a bag, so they don’t touch the cart.
“I’m paranoid today. I’m sorry,” he says. I indulge him because it is not like him to be this cautious.
On to the deli meat and cheese, generously stocked. However, it is right next to the fresh donuts. We fight again, and I force him to abandon the treat. They only come in boxes of six, and we don’t need them. Guilt washes over me once more. Shopping is now an overwhelming experience. I used to love grocery shopping. I would go three times a week for this and that. But now, here we are shopping for two-weeks worth of food.
Other people shopping seem to be keeping to their own aisles. There were never more than three people in one aisle.
We find a majority of the items on the list. But then we get to the flour. None. We have to settle on a more expensive type of flour called “double zero.” An Italian flour used for pasta making, but it will do. There are only three left. At least there are eggs and milk.
When we get to the check out the cashier sees that we brought bags.
“I’m so sorry, but I can’t touch those,” she says to us. I fish them out and bag things for her. As we chat, she tells us that it’s only her second day.
“My other job got shut down, so I had to come here. A lady yelled at me on my first day. She got upset because none of us are wearing gloves. The weird thing was, she paid for everything, and then she left without taking anything.”
We are almost done. The next man in line has a cart full of bottled water and is wearing a mask and gloves. It’s 9:30, and our line is the only one open, save the self-checkout. It’s starting to get busier. Leaving, we see that more carts have been brought inside. The store employees will wipe them down for each coming customer.
We get home to no evidence of destruction. I’m lucky that my husband can telework today because he can stay and help me unload. We both wash our hands and put everything away. I’m exhausted. I didn’t fall asleep until 3:00 AM the night before. So I go back to bed. Nothing is stopping me from sleeping for another few hours. Our dogs keep barking because everyone seems to be walking their dogs today. Trying to keep busy. I fall asleep, pretending that this is a normal day. And in a way, it is.