First person: shopping foray

Customers wait in line outside CVS Pharmacy on March 24, keeping the mandated 6-feet of space between one another. (photo by John Gregory)

First person: shopping foray

(March 24) I woke less than psyched about shopping for necessities before the stocks of paper goods ran out, but I was determined to do my duty for my family nonetheless.

Running late at about 7:59 a.m., I rushed down the steps to the garage only to step on a fresh and odorous present left by one of our cats who decided to not use the litter box this morning. Cleaning my left shoe the best I could, I frantically decided I had no time to change footwear.

I arrived at “new” Vons at Scripps Ranch Marketplace, not bothering to read any of the fliers and notices attached to the doors and windows. They obviously announced the limits on items per customer.

Everything appeared calm. I quickly grabbed the important items, and remembered my wife requested some ground beef. On a previous shopping mission, I desperately purchased a can of sloppy Joe mix without meat. I was simply attempting to get whatever I could for the family. Not much was left on shelves last week. So, today we needed the final ingredients for Sloppy Joes.

I walked past the front, looking for a path leading to the meat department. One of two security guards who now patrolled the checkout lines tried to herd me into a line. I cut down an empty aisle.

Once at the back of the store, I realized customers were standing in lines that extended beyond the length of aisles of merchandise and along the back of the store. These were the lines for checkout. Once ready, I chose one line and waited at the end.

Unfortunately, customers were not standing the mandated 6-foot distance from one another. Two gentlemen in front of me were engaged in a close conversation the whole time. Other shoppers occasionally crowded down the same aisle to shop for items – and they seemed to spend an unusually long time comparing such merchandise as cotton balls and scented soap. Customers were calm and friendly for the most part, but it was obvious their nerves were a bit strained today.

Much worse, I found that I had hurried too quickly and bundled too much. The store seemed unusually warm – a perfect incubator for the virus. I began to perspire. I became extremely nervous. What if people thought I had COVID-19? What if I started to pass out? I experienced an immediate panic attack, but I was determined to get to the holy land: the checkout stand.

Finally, it was my turn. The person in front of me emptied her cart and was about to pay, so I asked the guard if I could approach. He waved me off.

When finally allowed to enter the checkout space, the temperature suddenly became noticeably cooler.

A woman brought her cart behind me, but the security guard ordered her back. Voices blared out as an argument of some kind broke out near the entrance to the store – and quickly faded. Then, the checker told me to retreat beyond the red line –­ which I just then noticed on the ground.

Once outside, I was so relieved that I decided to fill up on gasoline (no lines). I drove toward CVS Pharmacy where a group of shoppers calmly waited outside while keeping the 6-foot distance between one another.

Driving south down Spring Canyon Road I noticed bright yellow tape surrounding the perimeter of the concrete outdoor basketball court where kids once played. It was a stark reminder that parks are closed.

During a brief drive around town I noticed a short line of customers outside Trader Joe’s. The high school was quiet. So was Miramar Ranch Elementary. “Old” Vons didn’t have a line outside, but there were plenty of cars in the lot. Hoyt Park was empty – only two small notices were attached to wooden stumps letting the public know the park was closed. The driveway to Lake Miramar was gated and the library was closed, yet cars were parked in the library lot and along the road near the lake. As noted many times on social media recently, an increased number of people were walking or jogging outside, many with their dogs.

Now calm and cool, I returned home and washed my hands. I was happy to be back with my treasures: a rare package of toilet paper, ground beef and milk – but no other food. That’s ok. I did my part. Did I mention I was having a panic attack?

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