Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Grocery Shopping at the time of Coronavirus

I went to Whole Foods this morning.

It opens at 9am, but seniors can start shopping at 8am. I was there at 8:05, oh my, it was packed! With seniors of all sexes and ages. In French they have a jolly name for our age, they call us tamalous.  It's the contraction of "Tu as mal ?. "Tu as mal ? 'Where does it hurt today my dear?' and there follows the endless list of the ailments afflicting an aging body. With my husband, early in our seniority, we decided to keep the tally of our aches and pains between 9 and 10 in the morning, just to be open to other subjects of conversation for the rest of the day.

Well, I am here with my fellows tamalous, several, I would have never believed that Kitsilano, a young and trendy area, could also accommodate so many specimens of a not so cool population.

It is depressing looking around, the years make havoc of the human body. Some shoppers can hardly move, or see, or hear, and of course we easily forget about the two metres distance, we overlook the other fellow opening the freezer and we stand there half a metre from him, carelessly opening the adjacent door.

I would run out of here, but I need fruit and vegetables. And I don't want to go through this ordeal any time soon.

After a short war easily lost, I am at the cashier and ask her if they take back the Avalon milk bottle. I read on their website that they do, so I brought mine along. I can see fear in her eyes as she looks at the bottle. Distancing herself from me even more, she hints at the extreme corner of the till and tells me to leave there my bottle. I do, but instantly appears her colleague who scolds her saying 'No, no, the returned bottles go there', and she points to a trunk with a tight lid. She opens it and in a military way orders me to pick up my nuclear bomb and bring it there, where it is safely out of sight.

So much trouble for a humble bottle of milk. if I weren't obsessed with recycling, I would have thrown the bottle in the glass container bin.

But of course I understand our reactions. We all understand this time. What did our Prime Minister say this morning? That we are made of steel. Well no, we are not made of steel, we have a soul, we are fragile human beings. We pretend that we can cope. We are chameleons, we adapt, we suffer, we go on. The steel doesn't feel, we do, and tragedies tear us apart.

My second stop is Greens Organic on Broadway.

What a heaven of a store! Only another customer shopping and I can take my time choosing the cheese I want, the butter and the eggs. Everything is so well organized, probably I feel so good because I can breathe and not worry at every fraction of a second that I might bump into somebody or that somebody might bump into me. I can even use my bag to carry the grocery home. Fantastic.

Home, sweet home, that nowadays becomes sweet only after forced labour and an endless repetition of the same maddening tasks.

Three grocery bags to empty. I start with the easy one. The packaged rice cakes. They are properly washed with soap and water and left to dry and hopefully disinfect on the balcony in the ultraviolet light, as the virus, I read, can live up to 14 days on metal and cardboard. A can of salmon, same destiny. Why did I buy this salmon if I hardly ever eat canned food? Mystery of the corona time.

The cottage cheese is moved from its container to one of mine, and the same is reserved for the cream cheese. The egg plants, oranges, apples and lemons are soaped and washed one by one and while doing this, the hands, as if keeping the rhythm in a musical score, are washed again and again. When will they give up and start peeling, I wonder.

The chard and the kale go in one of my plastic bags and finish in the fridge as I can't pretend to wash with water and soap every single leaf, and I am almost at the point of explosion doing this pointless task. But I keep going, a robot. The almond milk container is scoured with a cloth imbued with alcohol. The bread goes from its plastic bag to one of mine, the chocolate bar is carefully unwrapped from its paper box and left in its foil, which now I avoid to touch, as my hands are for sure, again, contaminated. The eggs are individually washed and dried, the butter is removed from its foil and re-wrapped with a new one.  My lungs are bloating, are to the point of explosion, are almost lifting me from the ground, two aerostatic balloons filled by rage. This is a Sisyphus labour, and I am Tarzan trapped in a cage: I just want to SCREEEEEAM!!!!!!!!!

I will NOT go shopping for another fortnight at least. I have enough blueberries and rice and lentils to keep me going. The 40 frozen prawns no, no more.

I took three of them out of their box a couple of weeks ago. They still had all their legs on, which meant that I had to deal with thirty spiked points at once. Frozen, sharp and wounding my skin.

I roasted the prawns on the stove. They were delicious, but the smell from the cooking was unbearable, and I had to open all the condo's windows. My body reaches fast (and not past) the freezing point. Before falling to numbness I remembered owning a hot water bottle. And so I spent hours, wrapped in sweaters and blankets and pillows and hot water bottle while there was a downpour of rain outside and of cold inside. And all of this because of three stupid prawns.

After an eternity the smell subsided, it did not disappear. When the following day I opened the freezer and a different smell, but always from the prawns, reached my nostrils, my patience twisted for the worse. I grabbed the box, wrapped it in a heavy paper bag, ran downstairs and dumped it in the compost bin. With a grin of satisfaction, mad as everything else.

This afternoon my three-year-old grandson came over. He likes to sit on the balcony while eating his orange.  He spotted the rice cakes and the can of salmon sitting in the sun. With his big, innocent eyes, he asked: 'Mimi, why are these here?' 

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