Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Pandemic Thrills in the Produce Aisle

person passed out in grocery cart

Mere weeks before I first met my wife, she had survived a tandem skydive. That’s jumping out of an airplane with another person strapped to your back and only some polyester sheets to prevent the two of you from becoming a human short stack.

I, meanwhile, was still living with my parents. Living on the edge to me meant swigging their 1 percent straight out of the carton without first giving it a good, long sniff.

Nearly 30 years later, I am now the risk taker. The thrill seeker. The adrenaline junkie. The one who goes out for supplies during The Pandemic.

We decided fairly early — and, in retrospect, far too easily — that I would be our family’s designated shopper. It made sense. I do most of the buying already so my familiarity with the supermarket would get me in and out of Contagion Central the fastest (so long, teenage son who would look for eggplant in the dairy section); I have no underlying health conditions (stay home, sweet immunosuppressed daughter); and, my freelance work affords me the most schedule flexibility (just salt my sad W-2s and rub them deeper into my wounded male ego, beloved Executive Goddess Wife).

Finally, my ancestors pride themselves on having a zest for the overly cautious life. We double-knot sneakers. We double bag potato chips. We wear a belt and suspenders with our elastic tie sweatpants. And you ain’t seen nothing ‘til you’ve seen this guy in inaction when the times we live in mean scratching an itchy nose could land him in the morgue.

Settled. My wife and kids agree I’m the least vulnerable to coronavirus. Or I’m the most expendable. Holy Hunger Games! I’m our district’s tribute.

Honestly, being chosen for the grocery run felt kind of good. My family respected my skills as a reliable gatherer with superior hygienic handling skills. Plus, it offered me a chance to escape the confines of our ever-shrinking house. I felt like had won the lottery. A couple of steps into the produce aisle later — gloved in latex, face swaddled in fabric, armed with only a travel-sized bottle of Purell — I concluded this was less like hitting the Power Ball jackpot and more like drawing the black spot in a Shirley Jackson short story.

Was that a sneeze? Stop encroaching me! Don’t you see the taped directional arrows on the floor?! Oh, Lord. How will I ever get to the chick peas with that checkout line stretching past the Rice-A-Roni? And why — WHY — is that unmasked man fondling all the jumbo eggs?

Every excursion for food, with all its decisions about whether to chance squeezing a tomato and how long to linger in the frozen food aisle looking for chopped spinach, has become a heart-racing, choose-your-own-adventure thriller. My chest pounds. My brow sweats. I often feel faint. Probably from holding my breath whenever someone comes near.

And, you know, I’m starting to like it.

Pre-store anxiety has become anticipation then actual excitement. The supermarket becomes a carnival’s haunted house with coughing zombies and maniacs wielding virus-coated fingertips leaping out at you around every corner. The rush peaks when I finally slide past the last sniffling bagger and into the parking lot. If this is the same endorphin-fueled buzz BASE jumpers experience when freefalling off cliffs, then sign me up.

Of course, I plummet from this high once I reach my minivan. I consider all the strains of impending doom coating my clothes and purchases. I wonder if I really cleaned my credit card or just relocated the germs from one side to the other. And then, inevitably, my nose starts to itch.

Maybe BASE jumping can wait until those melting polar ice caps bring the cliffs down to my level.

Photo by Helmi Lutvyandi from Pexels


  1. How hard is it to follow the freakin' arrows!

    1. I know and HEY! IT'S HOMEMAKER MAN! How are you holding up, friend?

  2. Base jumping is probably safer for you than going to the supermarket these days.

    But ive never heard a man explain in this much detail why he is the one going to the supermarket and not your immunesuppressed daughter or wife.

    Fun read.



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