Risky Shopping

Last week I went grocery shopping to two different stores on the same day. Equipped with my personal bottle of hand sanitizer, and my face mask, and a firm resolve to social distance, I headed to the store.

The parking lot was bustling with unmasked people piling out of cars heading into the already crowded interior. In the lobby area there were no wipes, no hand sanitizer, no UV lights, no friendly staffers cleaning or reminding shoppers to social distance. There was a small hand-spray bottle hooked over the handle of a lone cart pushed up against the wall.

I wrapped my fingers around the handle of what I was sure was a germ ridden cart then stepped inside to the customer service counter.

I asked, “Do you have any hand sanitizer or wipes for customer use?

“We spray the carts down once a day.” The masked clerk responded.

I replied, “So, that’s a no, then?”

She answered, “Yes, that’s a no.”

I made no sound. I abandoned the cart at the customer service counter and left the store.

Around fifteen minutes later, at a second store, the people were methodically flowing into the lobby area. There was a masked staff person wiping down each cart before gently pushing it toward each shopper.

When offered a cart, I gladly took it, and thanked the woman. She wore a surgical mask covering her nose and mouth the same as a nurse or doctor might use. Even though she was only cleaning a grocery cart, she was placing herself between me and an unseen threat.

As I shopped, the atmosphere seemed positive and less congested. All the employees and almost all the shoppers had on masks. There seemed to be a shared understanding, almost a reverence of appreciation of safety in the space. This kind of awareness cannot be purchased or fabricated. It is also, almost, impossible to explain to someone on the outside looking in. It can’t be seen. It is a sense.

After I stowed my wares in the car, I took my cart back inside the lobby area.

” Here ya go,” I wheeled the cart toward the hero who cleans them. ” Again, thank you so very much. I left a store not far from here because they do not do this.”

She looked at me for a long moment and said, “They don’t believe.”

“That’s exactly right”, I said, “they don’t.”