Here's a report from the front lines of people venturing out to do some grocery shopping in what I've come to think of as the Coronavirus Era.
By "people," I basically mean me. But I'll start with a second-hand report from my wife, Laurel, who headed out in the morning in a (futile) search for toilet paper and facial tissue.
Laurel was staring at the completely empty shelves where toilet paper used to be at the south Salem Fred Meyer store. A man walked up and said, "Wow, what happened to the toilet paper?" Naturally she said that it was a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
"Oh, that's a scam," he remarked. Which left my wife speechless, because she missed an opportunity for a snappy comeback. Like, "Dude, you've been watching too much Fox News."
So it's disturbing that there's even one person in Salem who doesn't understand how important it is to take the outbreak seriously, which means social distancing and taking other precautions to avoid being infected with COVID-19, for the good of both yourself and other people.
I headed out to do our main weekly grocery shopping in the afternoon, following Laurel's return. Though she struck out on paper products, Laurel was successful in getting bread and some other must-have's.
Since my wife has asthma, she wore a mask and gloves when she goes into stores. And since I both fear and love my wife, which happens after thirty years of marriage, I was pleased to obey her command that I also wear a mask and gloves.
I found an N-95 mask that we'd gotten during the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster in 2011, when some low levels of radiation were projected to reach the United States. Since I'd never tried it on before, my first reaction was, Wow, this isn't very comfortable. Yet many health care workers have to wear a mask for a lengthy time every day.
Pulling into the Trader Joe's parking lot, I also found myself thinking that I was going to look kind of strange with my mask and gloves. But that thought didn't last long, being replaced with the realization that whatever helps keep me and Laurel free of the coronavirus is a good thing, strange or not.
And I then noticed that there was a line of people waiting to enter Trader Joe's.
To reduce the risk of social contagion, friendly employees were letting a shopper into the store only when someone left the store. It only took about ten minutes for me to reach the head of the line, where I asked a question spurred by a sign that said it was only possible to buy two of any item.
"Um, I like to have your small container of yogurt every day, so I need seven to get me through the next week. Would it be OK to buy that many, or do I need to get one or two large containers of yogurt?" The reply was, "Don't worry about it. You should be fine."
Which I was.
Trader Joe's also had put green tape to show where people were supposed to stand when waiting in line for a cashier. And once my groceries began to be rang up, there was another piece of green tape where I was to stand during that process. So only when I had to put my credit card in the reader was i close to the cashier, which makes a lot of sense.
When I got back to my car, I could hardly wait to lower my mask to chin level, in part because I quickly realized that wearing dark glasses with the mask on made my glasses fog up. Some health care workers must wear glasses, so there's got to be a trick to combining a mask with glasses that I'm not aware of.
Fred Meyer was my next stop.
All went smoothly there. I ended up getting more than was on my list, because as I wandered the aisles I'd see something that we use regularly, like coffee filters, and think that I should get some in case there's a shortage in the future, even though we don't need that thing right now.
Not a great idea, since this is how shortages happen -- people fearing that a shortage is going to happen. But understandable, especially given the desolate look of the aisle where paper towels, facial tissue, and toilet tissue usually grace the shelves. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
But hey, I've got plenty of coffee filters! And, yogurt. Sadly, neither of which are suitable for wiping my butt.
My final stop was Lifesource Natural Foods.
All seemed pretty normal there, aside from the change to the bulk foods department. Now you can't put bulk stuff in a plastic bag yourself. Instead, two Lifesource employees were doing that in an efficient manner. I only needed salted mixed nuts, so getting them was quick and easy.
Yesterday my wife and I had less positive results with our first attempt to order groceries online, then pick them up outside the store. Laurel ordered quite a few things that were shown at being available at the Sunnyside Roth's. But by the appointed time to pick them up, every item but paper towels wasn't available.
(At least paper towels are closer to being toilet paper than coffee filters and yogurt.)
Same thing happened with some hand sanitizer that i'd optimistically ordered from Lifesource after seeing it available on their web site. I got an email saying that the order had been cancelled, since that item was out of stock. Some friends of ours have had success with local online ordering, though. So I guess it depends on what you want and how much in demand it is.
We're appreciative that so many stores are earmarking an early time for at-risk people to come in, like at 7 am. Being over 70, we might take advantage of that at some point. Especially if toilet paper continues to be in such short supply. It was good to see that Fred Meyer is only allowing people to buy one item of paper products like toilet paper.