Let’s face it. Nothing has been easy in 2020. And even though we are eight months or so into the global pandemic of COVID-19, there does not seem to be any relief in sight. But if I were to be perfectly honest, my personal life has not been as negatively affected as some. I live in a small, rural community with plenty of services and goods at my fingertips. My office is six blocks from my home. If I plan well, I do not have leave town very often.
However, last week it was becoming increasingly clear I needed to run some errands in the city. I had household and clothing donations to drop off, some grocery items on my list that are not as available in town, and I needed to make a couple of client stops. My husband agreed to go with me and we planned our route.
It should have been easy. We knew where we needed to go, what we needed to accomplish at each stop, and how much time it should take us to complete our round of errands. We packed a water bottle to avoid unnecessary stops at convenience stores and made sure we had our face masks handy! But everything took so much longer than we expected!
Wearing a mask is always a challenge for me as I am somewhat claustrophobic. I’ve been practicing with different styles and fabrics, etc. And I do feel like I’m making progress. What I didn’t take into account was the fact I wore my glasses as opposed to wearing my contacts. There’s a good reason for that because I’m at the age where I’m “in between” vision. I don’t know how else to explain it. My bifocal contacts are the best for driving, distance, and peripheral vision, but my glasses work much better for reading, and seeing things at mid-range. Truth be told, I can’t read anything with my contacts anymore, so I always keep “readers” with me! But extra glasses and masks seemed like overkill. Knowing I would need to read labels, price tags and etc, I chose my glasses for errand day.
What I didn’t know until that moment in time? Facemasks and glasses are not compatible! Who knew? I had no idea! It was cold outside, so my glasses fogged over every time I went inside. Then the mask proceeded to cause fogging every single time I exhaled! Frustrated, I switched to a paper mask and found some relief. I could read, but I couldn’t breathe! Yet, had I worn my contacts, I couldn’t have read anything, but I would have been able to breathe. It was a catch 22 before I even began to check off my list.
First stop. We backed our car up to our favorite thrift store to drop off donations to learn due to COVID-19 they only receive donations on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. We were there on Wednesday. Go figure. We skipped the drop off and drove around front so we could go inside to check off our short list of household items.
In a non-pandemic kind of world, we could run in and out, see if they had what we were looking for, then be on our way in no time. Not today. We stood in line, six feet apart from the couple entering in front of us. We waited while the thrift store staff took their temperatures, counted the number of guests already shopping, then allowed them to proceed. By the time they took our temps, there were already fifteen shoppers inside the store, so we were asked to wait on the chairs inside the door until someone checked out. So, now we’re fever free, sitting inside a store with 17 shoppers, but we’re not allowed to browse until two check out. All the while we’re waiting, my glasses are fogging over. We forfeited our browsing experience to move on down the street to our second stop.
Another short list. This time for a few building supplies we usually purchase at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. We wore our masks, this time mentally prepared to fog over. We waited for the cart to be sanitized, then meandered through the store. By this time, I needed to make a stop at the ladies’ room, but guess what? The restrooms are closed – due to COVID-19! What the heck? Now I am shopping and “holding” and wishing things were easier all the way around!
Going from one location to the other included a long detour due to road construction and a turn lane traffic signal that wasn’t working. We could see our next stop, but couldn’t get there because the light refused to change from red to green. Three, four, five cycles of lights and we were still sitting there. And I still have to go to the bathroom. Hubby finally punted and turned left on a red. No one was coming and so far we haven’t received a ticket in the mail!
Next stop was to find an open bathroom! We didn’t want to stop at a convenience store! Remember? We planned against random stops for random reasons! We chose the consignment store—hoping their bathroom was open! Plan B was next door, but we were still trying to save a stop if possible. We scored! Their bathroom was open, but my glasses were still fogging over! That was the easiest stop of the day.
The grocery store was stressful for more than one reason. First, some carts were sanitized. Some weren’t, but the signs were confusing. I chose a cart and wore my gloves. Next, we had to follow one way arrows in the aisles, unless we were in the produce area. There didn’t seem to be any specific rules about shopping over there. The hardest thing about the produce section? The little plastic bags you tear off the roll. I wanted 4 avacados for five dollars. The plastic bag would NOT open! No matter how I rubbed the edges together it was not going to open, and Lord knows, this is NOT the time to lick your finger to make that happen. My avocados had to lay in the cart without a bag!
Of course, many of the things we needed were the random items you only need once every six months and they were not where they used to be. We followed arrows and signs until we could check off the list and then worked out way toward check out. Every other check out lane was closed due to COVID-19, and the squares on the floor told us where to stand to stay socially distanced. For whatever reason, every other shopper was ready to check out right when we were! The lines were backed up into the aisles, which further confused the one-way arrows! We opted for self-checkout, which should have been simple, but the automatic cashier inside the machine wouldn’t allow us to scan the next item because it didn’t “see” us put the first one in the bag! We had to get a live cashier to push a button and turn a key to scan the rest of our items! Seriously!
By this time we had been through the same road construction twice and stumbled into another area of construction on our way to touch base with a client. The traffic seemed exceedingly heavy while most of the stores felt empty. It didn’t make sense. It took forever to drive across the street and took even longer to get checked out everywhere we went. Enough time had passed that I was ready to find another bathroom.
We still needed dog food and cat litter. That was a stop at the Farm and Tractor Store. Usually a quick and easy stop, but the clock was ticking by this time and my phone was starting to blow up from work. Our list of errands was only 2/3 done. Five stops total which normally would have been a quick two hours – into the city, grab what we need, get back home! We were into the second half of the third hour and still had two stops to go. It was becoming obvious GUSTO Pizza was not going to get our business for a late lunch.
Every time we climbed back in the car, we removed our masks and breathed freely. Every time we got out of the car, we put them back on so my glasses could fog over. I was exhausted. Hubby was frustrated. Nothing was easy. Nothing was quick. We sat in a parking lot and discussed our options. Amazon is open 24/7. I ordered the dog food and the cat litter while sitting in the car. We decided our last stop would just have to wait for another day. By this time, it was easier and simpler to just drive home and use the bathroom there!
It used to be easier. It used to be more fun. Running errands was once a day to get out of town and browse through our favorite stores looking for treasures and trinkets amongst the necessary items on the list. But on this day, browsing was limited by temperature checks and head counts; trinkets and treasures were truncated due to closed bathrooms and erratic automated cashier registers.
Quite honestly? I wanted it to be easy. I wanted a day to enjoy being out on the town. I wanted to have time and space to dream a little with my hubby. But due to COVID-19 changes, we were both ready to be back in our own community where everything we needed could be picked up a few short blocks from our house. Everything else could land on our doorstep in what used to be free two-day shipping on Prime. Due to COVID-19 Prime is more like “we will get it to you at some point in your future as soon as we can”. But it eventually arrives and at this point, it seemed simpler to stay tucked in tight close to home.
I long for the “old” days before due to COVID-19. Sometimes I wonder if those days will ever return. At the same time, I put on my mask and move through the days trying to be as compassionate and understanding as possible. Other days I forego the added stress and stay in my own little comfort zone, mask-free inside the walls of my home, wishing GUSTO Pizza delivered all the way out here!