Published in the Rains County Leader on April 7, 2020:
Last week I wrote about what will probably be my last trip to the grocery store until the coronavirus siege is over. When self isolation was relatively new, my son had put a post on Facebook listing things he had learned in the last few days. One was that cereal is a miraculous food. So when I saw the empty shelves on the cereal aisle, I snapped a picture and texted it to him with a note that said, “Apparently a lot of people agree with you about cereal.”
He apparently didn’t think it was as funny as I did. He responded with a note that said, “For the record, I don’t like you being out at the store.” He went on to outline his reasons for feeling that way. I responded with, “Noted and thank you.” Probably a little bit of payback for the times when, as a teenager, he sighed and rolled his eyes when I offered advice. Anyway, we talked a bit more with me trying to reassure him that I was being careful and him diplomatically talking about alternatives to in-store shopping.
Since then I’ve found out that a number of my contemporaries have been grounded by their children. Some have gone so far as to shop for their parents and deliver to their doorsteps. Christian is too far away for that, but I respect him and our relationship too much to ignore his feelings. In the two weeks following my outing, I watched the statistics rise and the limitations tighten. We have plenty of supplies for meals for a while, but as some of the little things began to dwindle away – things like raspberry lemonade drink mix and sugar free Italian sweet cream coffee cream – I began to think about another shopping trip.
I knew I didn’t want to make a Walmart run. For one thing, their senior hour is from 6-7:00 am, and I don’t need anything bad enough to get up that early. For another, there are just too many people and too much risk for even a rebellious parent like me. But the lemonade mix is a Walmart thing, and there were a couple of other things I’d been wanting, so I went online. Those few things added up to enough to qualify for free shipping, so I pulled out my full shopping list and began looking. What I found was a lot of out of stock and store pick-up only notices, so I placed my short-list order and decided to check out Brookshire’s curbside pick-up option.
The first thing I realized was that I had to find a way to narrow my options. When I opened the shopping page, I found myself in the produce section. Since this is where I normally start, it seemed perfect. I clicked through several pages, picking out red and white grapes, clementines, broccoli, and a few other items before looking for coffee creamer. I didn’t want to scroll through the entire meat department, so I found the department links and clicked on the dairy section. There were still too many options, so I looked for the “search” feature and typed in “coffee creamer.”
After figuring out how the smart shoppers do it, I breezed through my list pretty quickly. I still ran into quite a few out of stock notices, mostly in store brands, but if I let go of preconceived notions about what brand I had to have, I was able to find the majority of what I needed. And because I was picking up my order at the store, I didn’t run into the problem of items that couldn’t be shipped. So, I was a happy camper – until I got to the checkout.
I knew from hearing the sad stories of my friends, that the waiting period to get a curbside order might be as long as seven days. I felt pretty fortunate to get a pick-up appointment only three days away. But there was a recommendation that I check the box to allow substitutions so that if after three days, my choices were no longer available, my shopper could pick up a similar product instead. That meant that if Italian sweet cream wasn’t available, I might end up with hazelnut or funfetti. I sighed, clicked Place Order, and texted my son.
ME: I just placed my first curbside pickup order. With all the notes about substitutions and possible out of stock, I feel like I’m playing grocery roulette!
CHRISTIAN: Pretty much.
It’s a good thing he couldn’t see me. I’m pretty sure I sighed and rolled my eyes.