GROCERY STORES AS SOCIAL CENTERS

Humans need social contact. They long for it, lust after it, seek it more than water. I’ve found my COVID connection—the local grocery store. King’s is opening at 7 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for people over 60, and at other times the store’s very active. It’s easy to chat with any passersby. We all act as if we’re participating in a semi-criminal activity.

In order to give structure to our daily visits, my husband and I track the status of restocking. When Denver’s shut-down was just on the horizon, it was my turn to grocery shop. On March 5, I was able to get everything on my list although toilet paper and paper towels were low. Four days later, paper products had disappeared, along with a hefty amount of fresh produce, cereal and crackers. Over the course of ten days, ebbs and flows occurred on lunch meat, hot dogs, canned goods, eggs. Long-gone and perhaps never reappearing—fresh o.j., fresh potatoes, pizzas.

We don’t really need to shop daily, but I’m concerned if we don’t at least look like we’re browsing, we’ll be ejected. With dictate after dictate coming down on size of group gatherings, from 1000 to 500 to 250 to 100 to 25 to 10, I envision police officers, who have been instructed not to write traffic tickets, switching to charges for congregating.

San Francisco’s Shelter in Place legislation makes exemptions for hardware stores, laundromats, banks, shipping services, professional services, such as legal or accounting services. While restaurants are prohibited from allowing people to eat on their property, the other categories don’t mention this. Therefore we’ll soon encounter the strange sight of people grabbing a sandwich at the grocery store, then strolling over to the local laundromat to eat.

I wondered whether I might be pulled over driving to a friend’s for lunch. Luckily, again citing San Francisco’s rules, people are allowed to “travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons.” Since the people I want to visit are mostly “elderly” by definition or my kids or grandkids, and everyone else of any age is edging toward mental vulnerability, again I think I can get away with visiting them.

Back to grocery stores. Recalling the popularity of oldies walking around shopping centers a number of years ago, my husband and I trudged through snow banks to walk the grocery store circuit three times, with strolls up and down various aisles to vary the routine. We spent about an hour and did, indeed, get some eggs and frozen waffles. However, I must report that my husband lacks true diligence because he spends more time reading labels than walking. I made several new acquaintances and thanked store employees for their hazardous duties.

COVID is making changes in my life. By and large they’ve been positive because they’ve energized me and flooded my writer’s brain with lots of ideas. Let’s see what else happens.

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