Sunday, April 12, 2020

The things the store carried.

First, thanks very much to everyone who has bought Beach Magic. I hope you enjoy the end to Raney's tale and I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your support. The book got a glowing review from one of Big Al's Pals on Friday, and I'm told another Pal will review it tomorrow.

I'm going to keep the price for all of the Elemental Keys books at 99 cents through at least the end of this month. It's the least I can do for those of us sheltering at home from COVID-19.

Speaking of which: Here's an essay about my trip to the grocery store today. I hope this piece is more successful than our shopping trips these days.


The Things the Store Carried

(With apologies to Tim O'Brien)

I went to the store today. I carried my purse, a habit left over from the time before the virus; my phone, with a debit card and store loyalty card tucked into the pocket on the back; a list of the things we needed; some coupons; and a mask.

Actually, I wore the mask. I made it from a pattern I saw in the newspaper. It is two thicknesses of quilting cotton glued together with a type of iron-on interfacing that's adhesive on both sides. Because of the interfacing, it's stiff and ill-fitting; the channels for the tie ends are too stiff to gather the way they are supposed to. The mask fogs up my glasses when I breathe, so I tuck a tissue into the top of the mask. It helps when I am standing still and admiring my handiwork in the mirror.

I do not stand still in the store, however.

I was not supposed to go to the store today. I was supposed to have my groceries delivered. I booked the slot two weeks ago. Today was the earliest slot I could get for delivery at the time. Once I had grabbed the time slot, I filled up my online cart. But supplies of some things have been erratic, so I checked two nights ago to see what had been deleted from my cart, and discovered my delivery had been canceled.

I hear from friends online that this happens to them, too. Or their shopping service will reschedule their delivery for a few days later. There is no explanation for this, or at least not one that resembles anything like the service we would have received a few weeks ago. Supply lines, they say now. We order what we need but it doesn't come on the truck. We are doing the best we can. We appreciate your understanding in this uncertain time. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Before this uncertain time, I shopped once a week. The store rarely was out of what we needed. Now, however, we have become modern hunter-gatherers. We are making two or three trips a week, going to stores where we rarely shop and making do with unfamiliar brands.

Here are some of the items on my list today: eggs, sour cream, unflavored gelatin for a recipe my younger daughter wants to make, body wash for my older daughter.

Last time I was here, the egg case was barren. Today, the store has eggs -- an Easter miracle. It has sour cream, too. I get the biggest container so we will not have to look for it again soon. It has my daughter's body wash, but not the scent she prefers; she will try yet another store this coming week. There is no unflavored gelatin. My daughter tried a different store yesterday and they did not have any, either.

Today, the store had 100% whole-wheat bread. Last time, there was none, nor was there 100% whole grain bread, but there were many loaves of cinnamon-swirl bread.

Frozen pizzas were sold out today. However, there were plenty of the single-serve entrees that I used to take to work for lunch, back before the virus forced our firm to allow everyone to work from home.

My younger daughter prefers the gluten-free chicken nuggets carried by a particular store. They have been sold out for weeks. Sorry for the inconvenience.

The store I went to today never seems to have toilet paper anymore. Or paper towels. We have enough of both for now, but it worries me.

While searching for the body wash, I realized I had been adjusting the mask constantly, which meant any germs on it, or on my hands, were already on my face. I took off the mask and tossed it in the cart, even though the store was crowded this Easter afternoon. There was an announcement reminding shoppers of the six-foot rule -- a rule that is impossible to maintain anywhere in the store. I got in one of the checkout lines, parking my cart at the mark on the floor. Then someone stopped a clerk with a question. The clerk stood right behind me. Did it help that she was facing away from me? What about the customer with the question, who was not six feet away from me, let alone from the clerk? Were any of them wearing masks? I felt too uncomfortable to turn around to look.

At last I got to the car. I reset my mental self-isolation clock for another two weeks -- about the time my rescheduled grocery order is supposed to arrive. I reminded myself to keep an eye on that virtual cart to make sure the store does not cancel the delivery again. That is all I can do. After all, they have apologized for the inconvenience.

These moments of inconvenient blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell (who, thanks to friends, will be properly masked the next time she has to go to the store).

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