by Aryan Pasricha
I pulled into the parking lot at Dino’s No Frills off Avenue Road. I expected this grocery run to be like any other. But I soon realized this trip was going to be one to remember.
At the start of every week, my family opens to a fully stocked fridge: fruits, veggies, meats. By the end of it, the seven people living at home have devoured the week’s food supply. One family member, usually my mom, will make their way to the grocery store to restock the fridge. This food cycle continues until… well it never stops actually.
The COVID-19 pandemic has sprung upon us and is spreading rapidly. The lethal virus is affecting everyone either physically or emotionally. It has shut down the economy causing businesses across several industries to close. However, some businesses are essential: their cycles can simply never stop. The grocery store is one of those rare essential businesses, and it was the excuse I needed to enter back into society.
I entered the No Frills parking lot from the opposite end of where the entrance was. As I parked the car, I noticed the other people exiting their cars and storming to the entrance. The only difference between me and them was they had latex gloves and masks covering their hands and faces, respectively. It hit me: this was no joke. Although I had been in quarantine for one week straight, this was the first moment I felt the effects of the virus’ outbreak.
I turned around, headed back to the car, and drove home to get the armour I needed for the grocery run of a lifetime.
When I got back, I waited in line outside and quickly got through No Frills’ front gates. There was an added pressure this grocery run because I was no longer in charge of just buying the groceries; now, the job was to buy the groceries, and not catch the coronavirus.
I started in the vegetable section. I grabbed a green pepper, and realized it wasn’t quite to my liking. As I was putting it back in the pile, I stopped myself: I can’t put it back. I already touched it. The virus will spread. So I accepted the bad pepper, dropped it in the plastic bag and went to go pick the next one. From that point on though, my judgement on the quality of the food would only be passed visually.
Then came my next problem: maintaining six feet between everyone. Sometimes it was unavoidable. Turn left, there was a person. Turn right, another person. Go forwards or backwards, and it was often the same result: a person. In these cases, I just stopped and prayed that this wouldn’t be the costly moment.
As I moved through the store, each section felt a little easier. I was getting the rhythm of walking cautiously and keeping my distance. When it came to the boxes and bottles, I always reached for the back of the shelf in hopes that those items were the untouched ones. With every new item I picked up meant increasingly heavy bags that my arms needed to withstand. Using a shopping cart was forbidden because in my mind, it was just another way to catch the virus. It came to a point where I couldn’t hold any more weight in the bags so I decided it was time to check out.
Just before paying, I realized I forgot to pick up cucumbers. As I headed back to the vegetable section, at the corner of my eye I saw the unthinkable: a customer picking up each apple, analyzing it, and putting the ones that weren’t good back in the pile. I stood frozen in shock. I rethought every item that I picked up. Clearly, the lesson I learned at the start of my grocery run wasn’t understood by everyone else. The growing fear of coronavirus that started in the parking lot, settled back deep in my head, and I felt it throughout my body. There was a helpless feeling just thinking about where all my food was coming from, but knowing there was nothing I could do. I swallowed what I just saw, grabbed the cucumbers and headed for the cashier.
When I went to checkout, there were dashes along the floor showing where to stand. The line was short, and I was the next one up. Knowing that I was leaving soon, I felt some relief. As I was putting the eggs on top for the cashier to scan, I heard loud voices coming to the right of me. It was a middle-aged woman arguing with the manager to let her in, but the grocery store was closing. The loud voices turned into yelling and in just a couple moments, everyone in the store was staring at them.
I turned back to my groceries and focused on getting out. But then the unimaginable, well at least the unimaginable to me, happened: the woman sprinted around to the exit door, and charged for the food through any opening she could find. Everyone stopped to watch how this movie scene would play out. Three or four workers came out to block the woman from going any further, all the while keeping their distance to protect themselves.
When I saw that, I knew it was time to return home. I paid, grabbed my stuff and headed to the car. As I was leaving the parking lot, I realized I would be back. Because at the end of this week, the fridge would once again be empty and need to be restocked because some cycles never stop; not even during a global pandemic.