COVID-19 No. 11: When ‘Shop ’til You Drop’ Has a Whole New Meaning

grocery cart with item
Photo by Oleg Magni on

BY THE TIME I PARKED MY CAR and walked to the entrance, about a dozen people had gathered, waiting for the store to open. It was early yesterday, just before 7. I don’t usually shop for groceries on Friday morning, but if I have to be out and about, I want to do it when I’ll encounter as few people as possible.

Another pivot in the coronavirus era.

Another dozen or so people gathered behind me. Many wore facemasks. There was little conversation.

I was fortunate to have arrived when I did. The guy who unlocked the door held it open and announced to us, politely but firmly, that only 15 people would be permitted in the store at any one time. I was number 11.

Never has a task so mundane created such anxiety in me.

Even with so few shoppers, I couldn’t help encountering people in aisles or near endcaps. We all tried to adhere to the 6-foot rule as much as we could, but full compliance simply was not possible. I found myself holding my breath often — which, when you’re trying to tamp down your nerves, is about the polar opposite of what you should be doing. I wore gloves, which made handling produce awkward. There was little talking, and I was taken aback to hear a shopper standing at the meat counter say rather loudly to the butcher, “What the fuck else am I gonna do?”


I filled my cart in about half an hour, a record for me when doing the weekly shop. Because of the 15-customer limit, I didn’t have to wait to pay up. I thanked the cashier for being there and told her I hoped people were treating her and her coworkers kindly.

Most were, she said, though there have been a few who, y’know.

Yeah. I know. We all know. Some of those types are the ones who blithely chose to ignore warnings of a clear and present danger, the ones in positions of leadership and power who could have — should have, goddammit — answered the call. They’ll never acknowledge it, but these people have blood on their hands.


I rolled my cart out the door. Eight or ten people stood quietly in line, appropriately distanced. I shared a smile with the person at the front of the line, a gentle-looking woman in her seventies, loaded my bags into the car, and drove home.

I never thought I’d long for a return to crowded stores and long checkout lines. I’ll be happy to stop pivoting so much. | DL

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