My family, my immunosuppressed husband (who takes an arthritis drug that lowers his immunity) and my college senior daughter (who didn’t go on her spring break, is mourning the end of her senior year and the fact that she will not have a graduation ceremony, and is stuck with her parents in the house UNABLE TO SEE ANY OF HER FRIENDS, and my (incredibly happy) dog, have been in quarantine for 16 days today. Aside from sacrificial lamb, Ally (the daughter) who has gone to CVS for essentials like prescriptions, nail polish and veggie chips (ADDICTED), we have not stepped foot in any stores. In fact, I’m pretty sure that TJ Maxx’s stock plummeting is my sole responsibility. But with food getting harder and harder to get online, I woke up thinking that I would take the chance and go grocery shopping, you know take one for the team. So, donning some disposable plastic gloves, I headed to the Market Street Cambridge location of Whole Foods.
Sundays are always quieter than weekdays, but there was almost nobody on the road. I pulled into the parking lot and saw a line. I asked a woman if the store was closed, or if it was just a line to get in. She said it was a line, for seniors. I got out and stood in the drizzle. As people came out of the store, people were let in. It was only about five minutes before I was walking through the door greeted by an employee who said, “I’m sorry, I’m going to have to ask you how old you are.” I answered, “I’m 61.” Her eyes opened wide, and she said, “Wow, you look great!” This was already a better experience than I could have hoped for.
It was nice to see the store had lots of room and only a once or twice did I get closer than I would have liked to people. I got flowers. Lots of flowers. The produce section reminded me of the Candyland Board game. Apple Mountain. Avocado Alley. Potato Passageway. I was giddy in the presence of so many fruits and vegetables! I actually filled the cart so high I could barely push it. I felt like an 18-wheeler making a turn at 95 MPH. I thanked every employee I came into contact with. The check-out line was staggered to keep distance. I had about 12 bags, so the fact that they put it in my car for me was a big plus.
I said goodbye to the woman guarding the door (and who blindly complimented me). I told her that I’d been really nervous to come in, that I’d been in the house for 16 days, and to please pass on what a great job they were doing keeping the numbers down for safety’s sake. Then I started to cry. Yup, I started crying with the poor Whole Foods woman who was hired to let people in the door, not to counsel the pathetic. She was really kind and I feel sure she’d have hugged me if it wasn’t for the fact that we were IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC.
SWEET BABY JESUS, I cried at the Whole Foods today.
But as I continued sobbing on my way to the car, I realized how scared I’d been to go into a store, viewing it as possibly being exposed to something that could kill my husband (as if being in the house with him this long hasn’t made me want to kill him myself). It struck me how completely different everything was now, that this trip to Whole Foods, which I used to do once or twice a week without thinking, was now something I did carefully and nervously. I saw fear in the faces of the other shoppers. They wore masks and gloves and scurried around the store trying to make their trip as short as possible. Shopping has turned into a round of Russian Roulette.
Gratitude goes to those employees who are risking their lives (sounds dramatic, but bizarrely it is not) to keep their own families, but also ours, fed. Stay safe and be grateful to the essential workers and of course, to our incredibly brave medical professionals, and um, if you go, try not to cry in the Whole Foods.