By Will Laurance on 04/04/2020
Today I went to the grocery store. When I arrived I didn't think many people were there. I approached the front entrance through the puddles and light rain. I noticed signs that said "waiting lines might seem long but move quick!". What? I thought. As I looked again I noticed a queue of people six feet apart going all the way around the store. I walked back. In my respirator, gray nitrile gloves, and rain coat I passed what felt like a hundred people.
I took my place in the back of the line and waited for over an hour. Strategically moving forward to avoid standing in the rain. I reviewed my grocery list many times. I looked at others in a variety of personal protective gear. Some cloth masks. Some respirators. Few gloves, which surprised me. And some people had nothing.
The carts were advertised as sanitized. I watched the employees spray carts from a round-up style spray-bottle. I was called in to the store. In a way it reminded me of starting a race. This grocery store has a defined path to go around the store. Similar to how an IKEA has set ways with shortcuts between sections.
I was able to find everything on my list. But staying six feet from someone is difficult in this situation. I tried to wait for people to pass or someone to finish bagging their oranges. But some customers didn't respect the rules as much and popped in at moments notice. All and all the store didn't feel crowded. But people were certainly buzzing. With my PPE on I don't know if someone turned away from me because they feared I was sick. Or did it remind them they hadn't taken precautions?
The store had rules for number of items for certain types. I don't think anyone is really monitoring those. The worst was when I needed to run back to get something. At this point I had an entire cart full. Something I haven't done since shopping with my family back in high school for a holiday meal week.
The employees were very helpful. But I can't help to feel a catch-22. They need their job. We need our food. But neither of us needs to be near one another. But I think a grocery store is the best equipped facility for quarantine necessities. Costco is probably better given how much space there is per aisle.
I still think it would be better to switch to a pure delivery/pick-up only. The employees could be temperature monitored and controlled in a way customers cannot. At least here is the "free" US of A. Shelves built for marketing of products is not the most efficient way for speed and accuracy of order fulfillment.
I made it out with what we needed for another week or so of meals. But if this things gets much worse I don't know if the current situation will scale. I will say the store was fully stocked. The only thing lacking was paper products like napkins, paper towels, and toilet paper. There was produce, meat, coffee, perishables, frozen items, bread, deli, packaged food for days. HEB/Central Market is doing a good job here in keeping up a nice supply of food.