Why Grocery Stores Aren’t Your Safe Place

Like I said the other day, I’ve been personal shopping during this pandemic. So, I’ve been in lots of grocery stores. Knoxville has instituted a “safer at home” order followed by a “stay at home” order. Which essentially mean the same thing, stay at home, unless you have to go out for necessary things like groceries, doctor appointments or exercise (at a park). I don’t necessarily think the last one should have been included because what happens when you tell people they if they aren’t sick, or feeling sick, they can go one of two places? You guessed it. They end up at those two places….. in droves. Because nothing is mandated. It’s a “strong suggestion.” A “use your best judgement” scenario. And let’s face it, we know a lot of people with poor judgement.

I have yet to go into a grocery store that is not packed. And I have been in a grocery store half a dozen times a day or more. Some of the things I immediately noticed:

Grocery store employees are not social distancing from each other. I think when you work with a group of people, they start to feel like family, and maybe you have a false sense of security being around them, but if they run into a customer who is infected and then go touch a co-worker, they’ve infected someone who would have otherwise possibly avoided getting sick. And then could unknowingly give it to someone close to them.  Or literally everyone else for the rest of the day or days that they are working while unknowingly infected.

Also, I’ve noticed that grocery store clerks who are wearing gloves are not changing them very frequently. I saw a bag clerk come in from outside with his gloves on and go straight to bagging groceries. At this point, I think working at the grocery store should be akin to working at a restaurant. I realize the gloves are meant to protect the worker and not the customer, but safety for all should be the priority. One cashier said, “they are making us wash our hands once an hour,” with an eye roll because she thinks this is all a hoax.

Grocery store foods. There is no regulation about how you shop. Especially produce. While I am shopping, if I have to get produce, I get a produce bag, open it and put my hand on the outside while putting the produce on the inside. Kind of like picking up dog poop. But it doesn’t matter if 10 other people have already handled the produce and put it back, which I see a lot of people doing. Maybe this should be a “you touch it, you buy it” scenario. Can we all go back to kindergarten and re-learn the “look with your eyes” lesson? And when you find what you want, then touch it and go. If you get an unripe or over ripe item, it will be OK. At least you won’t die from that.

Walking the aisles. There is no social distancing on a two way aisle. It is physically impossible to stay 6 feet away from someone in passing. Sure, you can do it if you are behind someone…. if you are patient. But lot’s of people aren’t. They are zipping through and bobbing and weaving and not paying any attention to the 6 foot “suggestion.” In a perfect world, you’d get one shot at shopping. You’d go in and single file line (again, see kindergarten lessons) go through the store getting everything you need and if you miss something, well, tough titty. You can get it next time. Because you will be alive to do that.

Checking out. I appreciate the cashiers (like the one at ALDI) who sanitized his hands and the pinpad between every transaction. He is one of the few. On more than one occasion, I had to request that the cashier sanitize before touching the items. I know they do not have an easy job right now, but over half of my deliveries are children ordering for their elderly parents and the last thing I want is to carry COVID-19 to someone’s mother. I always tell them to have their parent wash the groceries off as soon as they get them in the house or better yet, before they get them in the house. And then it dawned on me, we should have all been doing this all along. Now that there is the possibility of death from shopping, I realized that I had never really thought about all the germs on grocery store items. For example: I saw a woman pick up a pack of chicken, put it back down, rub her nose (forcefully), grab another pack of chicken, look at it, put it back down, then turn around and touch 3 more packs before finally deciding against all of them. Yes, I was rudely staring. No, I do not care.

I think right now, we should all be functioning under the assumption that we all have  COVID-19 and could give it to someone. That way, if we do actually have it (and we may not know for a week or two) we are limiting other’s exposure to us.

I know in a situation like this there are no easy answers. I do think that “praying it away” is the wrong answer. Not that I have anything against praying, but maybe “safer in place,” “stay at home” and the CDC warnings are the answer to your prayers. God gave you common sense, use it. Kind of like the story of the man in the flood. He’s so sure God will save him, he ignores the news on the radio, he ignores the warning sirens, he ignores the guy on the  boat that comes to save him and then he’s confused why he died. When he asks God why he didn’t save him, God says, “I answered your prayers 3 times, I sent you sirens, I sent you radio warnings, I even sent you a boat….and you didn’t listen.”

Let’s start listening. And wash your hands. And don’t touch your face.

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