Notes from the Pandemic – The New Shopping

The original shock of the wrenching changes to our lives caused by the pandemic has worn off a bit and it appears we’re settling into The New Reality. We humans like routine and predictability and many of us seem to have quickly adapted to the new behaviors now required of us.

For example, I used to hate having stuff in my pants pockets, but now before I leave the house I load up. I carry a small money/card clip, a 3 oz. bottle of hand sanitizer, a small folded piece of paper (useful for grasping store door and cooler handles), my cell phone, my keys, plastic gloves, a comb, coins (if I think a rare cash purchase may occur), and an unsharpened pencil (useful for safely poking self-checkout machine screens).

I put on a face mask, of course, a hat and sunglasses, and I often take a small bottle of water with me, for use in the car, and my own sturdy reusable shopping bag. I also put on my watch and my civilian dog tags (ID and emergency contact info). Whew – it’s amazing that I get out the door!

This is just the standard inventory I load up with each time I go somewhere public, and I’ve become quite used to it. Similarly, coming home, has its own hand-and-reusable-mask-washing drill, and unloading routine. It’s a time-consuming pain in the butt, but I’m used to it now. You probably have a similar procedure and inventory.

Perhaps this is overkill?

In combination with that, there are the new complications in the shopping process itself. Masking up, disinfecting your shopping cart handle (if you use one), using the store’s hand sanitizer (if offered), maintaining survival distancing from other shoppers, minding the One-Way stickers on the aisle floors, avoiding unnecessary touching of anything, doing the as-little-contact-as-possible check-out dance, getting out of there, and using the hand sanitizer again. Sound familiar?

The cumulative effect of this for me is that I’ve become more efficient: I combine shopping stops and often decide I can’t be bothered to make small, incidental, or impulse shopping stops. It’s now too much trouble to “pop into” some place I’m passing on the odd chance that they’ll have something I think I need. This turns out to be good for the bank account.

Plastic is King now with credit and debit cards and digital pay being used predominantly for payments. I can’t remember the last time I went to an ATM. Who wants to touch money that’s been touched by other folks? This bias has even impacted the coin supply: banks are restricting the amount of coinage retailers can get because the amount of it in circulation has dropped severely, causing a shortage.

A very rare sighting!

Speaking of shortages, they are, of course, still with us. Thankfully, toilet paper is in good supply, as are gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer. But now I can always spot where the Lysol and Clorox sanitizing wipes are supposed to be: they’re the perpetually-empty shelves with the “Please just buy one” signs attached.

Note that the CDC recommends wipes with 70%+ alcohol content and that many products touted as disinfectants have not actually been tested and shown to kill the current coronavirus. For your reference, the CDC provides this list of EPA-approved cleaners and disinfectants that will. Note that the many products that use Benzalkonium Chloride as their active ingredient will kill bacteria but not this virus.

And so it goes, in 2020, the Year of the Pandemic. We adapt, we negotiate with the fates, and we survive, if we’re smart. Stay smart, people.

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