I’ve now limited my grocery shopping to twice per month. I don’t know if it’s because I’m all Barney Stinson about this whole #StayHomeStaySafe campaign — CHALLENGE. ACCEPTED. — or if I’m somehow living out my Little House on the Prairie fantasies or engaging my latent skills from growing up in the jungles of Indonesia, but I’m all about making stuff from scratch and stretching a dollar and sorting and organizing and building up an appropriate pantry stocked with items to See Us Through.
Yesterday was Shopping Day. I visited two stores — the cheap, surplus food store for As Much As Possible, followed by the regular store for the Remainder. It took me seven hours in total. Seven. Hours. The stores are less than four miles from my house. But that was the time it required, armed with hand sanitizer and homemade face mask (thanks, Mom). As much as I wanted to be in and out quickly, it was slow going. I spent a LOT time waiting for people to move so I could peruse the shelves I was after, and even though I know one of the goals of #StayHome is not to linger in places where people gather — like the grocery store — I prioritized being patient and kind. Slowing down to watch out for others. Smiling — with my eyeballs, since my mouth was covered — and saying thank you to the folks working hard to restock (SO MUCH RESTOCKING HAPPENING) and answer questions and wipe things down.
When I shopped in the middle of March, I didn’t wear a face mask or gloves. I just washed my hands before I left and when I got home. By the beginning of April, it was gloves but no mask — and removing gloves after each store, before getting in my car so I could leave the store germs behind me. Yesterday, it was face mask but no gloves per my latest reading — just LOTS of hand sanitizer to supplement the soap and water hand washing and a giant can of Lysol in my car so I could decontaminate my phone and debit card between locations.
It’s strange shopping in bi-monthly snippets. Like leaping forward in time with over-sized steps. The stores look different each time — which shelves are full, which are bare, which have social distancing reminders and protocols listed, which are no longer sporting the “Buy 10 for $10” signs because the modern supply chain was never set up to sustain everyone making simultaneous bulk purchases. And the people look different each time, too — cashiers behind plastic barriers, all employees in masks and the patrons, too, kids virtually no where. It makes me wonder what it’ll look like by the beginning of May.
What will we know then that we don’t know now? How will we have adapted? How will humans and businesses be responding?
It’s both fascinating from an intellectual “gee, this is interesting” perspective and disconcerting from a “gosh, this has changed rapidly” perspective. Especially because we don’t know how long we’re doing this — or, if we’re able to take a break, when we’ll have to restart measures like this again.
How long will I be watching this Stop Motion Show in two week increments? How long will I maintain this regimen of Taking Food Inventory, and Managing Supplies Carefully, and Trying to Wisely Plan Far into the Future, but also Not Take Too Much and Leave Enough for Others? Will I live at this level of readiness indefinitely? Or will I tire of it as it becomes part of the new normal and be able — wisely or not — to let go of some of this obsessive desire to control what I can? Am I acting, or reacting, or overreacting?
I have no answers to any of those questions.
…and a little wonky in the middle —
— and homemade yogurt which is shockingly simple to do and objectively better than anything sold prepackaged. I felt accomplished and like I was Doing Important Work to Nourish My Family. By dinner, though, I was too tired to cook anymore so we played the Hot Dog Edition of “Who Makes It Better?” — a game I invented where you buy two different brands of whatever you can find at the discount grocery store (in this case, processed meat formed into the shape of a tube) and feed it to your family, forcing them to wax eloquent on the finer points of each before collectively selecting a winner.
In this case, Nathan’s Famous Beef Franks, which none of us have had, versus Hebrew National Beef Franks, my personal favorite.
We let the children play with sharp objects and fire, and roasted the hot dogs over open flame like God intended.
They enjoyed it every bit as much as having Dinner Homemade by Mommy — and they loved the fluffy, nutritionally vacant pillows that call themselves hot dog buns as much as the bread over which I slave — which simply highlights how much of the Scratch Cooking and Inventory Management is for my own emotional health and sense of well being and not for them. I mean, it IS for them. Obviously. But also, they’d be perfectly happy with a freezer full of wieners until May.
As humans, we don’t really have the ability to neatly unpack our motives or sort what exactly incites us to one action or provokes us to toward another. Only years from now — decades, probably — will the cooperative research be complete so the experts in social behavior and mental health and twenty-first century anthropology can tell us how our society ebbed and flowed and waxed and waned during this global crisis. They’ll be able to pinpoint the trends of how we responded and make educated guesses as to why. But they’ll never be able to unravel a single mind or understand these experiences viscerally unless they lived them. Which is wild to me — the sheer volume of experience which will never be known — and also strangely comforting. What we’re living now is both collective and communal. And as individual as a fingerprint.