Never miss the water...

By Sarah E. Reynolds | May 15, 2020

We had an exciting experience the other week: We went to the grocery store! Don't scoff — it was the first time in four weeks we had shopped for food, or been to any kind of store. And the adventure began even before we got into the car.

We decided to try out the service some grocery stores are offering where you place your order online, sign up for a pickup time, and they have your groceries ready to put into your car when you arrive. You phone to let them know you're there, and someone comes out to collect your payment and put your purchases into your vehicle.

The virtual shopping was not too hard, although a fair number of items were out of stock. As it turned out later, the store was also out of some of the things it had appeared to have when we placed our order; they were able to make substitutions for some, but others we just didn't get.

The sticky part was getting a pickup time. Grocery store staff are spending more time these days cleaning and restocking, so they have limited availability for running out to put groceries in customers' cars. The pickup slots become available at midnight for the following day. That is, at midnight Wednesday (what most people would think of as late Tuesday night), you can sign up for a pickup time on Thursday. If you're lucky, you get a time. If not, the times are all taken by eight minutes after midnight and you have to try again the next time midnight rolls around.

And don't think you can get around this by signing up for a time, then starting to fill a cart and just leaving the cart open for hours. We tried that, and ended up with a full cart and no pickup time. At least the website saves your cart. We hit the jackpot after three tries; I guess it's a good thing we won't be doing it again for a few more weeks.

Anyway, we arrived just at the beginning of the hour during which we were to pick up our groceries, called the store number printed on the sign in the special "to go" parking spot ... and there was no answer. Then we noticed that a young woman was delivering bags to a car near us. We tried calling again and still got no answer. Aha! The young woman was the only one assigned to handle pickup orders.

She came over to our car when she finished with the other customer, got our name and soon returned with our stuff. She had a digital payment device on one end of the cart where our grocery bags were sitting, and she stood at the opposite end to maintain a safe distance from our potentially infectious selves. She was very friendly as she talked us through the payment process, then put the bags into our car.

Then it was off home with our booty: fresh green vegetables, fruit, cheese, bread and other goodies we had missed for many days. We carefully wiped off anything in a package going into the fridge, washed fruits and veggies, and left non-perishables in the mudroom to decontaminate a while.

As we enjoyed our eggs for dinner, I said to Maureen, "It really feels kind of like Christmas!" It's true — there's nothing like missing something, especially something you've always had, to make you appreciate it.

This has been true of other things it never occurred to me I'd miss — like going to my office. It turns out that being around my coworkers gives me a vital shot of energy and purpose that helps to keep me on track through the workday. Having to supply that entirely for myself is harder and more tiring.

Going to the dog groomer is another thing I never really thought about until I couldn't do it. Maureen has been taking a pair of scissors to Rosie's fur to remove the mats, but she's in serious need of a professional "do."

We, and others we know, have found creative ways to "socialize" remotely, and it surely does help to see the faces and hear the voices of those we care about. But just as surely it's not the same. As the little girl said when told that God was always with her, "Sometimes I need someone with skin on."

If you have someone with skin on now, hold them. And make sure you reach out to the people you know who have no one to hold onto.

Longtime Courier Publications staff member and columnist Sarah Reynolds is the editor of The Republican Journal.

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