Grocery Shopping in a Pandemic

This article article is part of an ongoing series of life in the Pandemic 2020

By Dave Price (4/04)

As recently as two months ago, if my wife had said we were going grocery shopping at 6, I would have said fine. We’ll do that and then come home and fix dinner.

Today, we did go grocery shopping at 6. But it was 6 a.m., not 6 p.m. And why, when I have always been a night person, would I go shopping at that absurdly early hour, you ask? Well, you can chalk it up to another change in our new normal world prompted by Covid-19.

Last week, the Harris Teeter where we shop announced the store would be opening from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. for seniors only on Mondays and Thursdays. That way, those of us in the age group identified as most at risk from serious, sometimes fatal consequences from the virus could shop when the store was less crowded.

So far, at least, Judy and I continue to go once a week for groceries. Now a lot of people have opted for home delivery or curbside pickup, but I’ve never minded grocery shopping and it is the only outing of the week where we actually get to see some people other than when we take our daily exercise walks.

So what is it like 65-and-over grocery shopping at 6 a.m.?

Here are some of the highlights:

Outside the store, there were both wiping cloths and sanitizer to take care of your grocery cart before you entered. There was a clerk there if you needed help.

There was a total of 10 customers in the store, 3 couples and 4 single shoppers. It’s the only time I’ve been in Harris Teeter when the workers outnumbered the customers.

The clerks in our store are always friendly and helpful, but they were especially so today.

Everyone shopping kept their distance as recommended with social distancing guidelines.

We were behind one couple in the checkout line. Soon, two single shoppers were standing behind us. Quickly, a second clerk opened a register so the line could be reduced.

The biggest change in shopping from last week concerned bagging. For more than 25 years, we have been taking cloth bags to the grocery store as part of our concern for the environment. At Harris Teeter, it had been standard that the clerks would bag for us. Today, however, that policy was no longer in effect. Customers were expected to do their own bagging, which Judy and I did with no problem.

Now the focus recently has been on what items stores do not have. But being inquisitive by nature and occupation, I have been checking out what appears not to be moving. And I feel safe in saying that one such item appears to be cream of asparagus soup. Each time we have visited the store, there have been 16 cans of that soup on the shelves, compared to the absence or scarcity of more popular soups like chicken noodle or tomato.

That was true today. The count stood at 0 cans of tomato soup, 4 cans of chicken noodle and 16 cans of cream of asparagus. I guess most people just don’t find cream of asparagus soup “mmm mmm good” and I know I am at the top of that list.

Overall, except for having to get out of bed at 5:30 a.m. (I mean who even knew there was a 5:30 a.m.?), our shopping excursion went well. We were back at our apartment complex with our groceries by 7:10. By 7:30 they were put away. 

But our adventure did leave me with one question. Do you think 8 a.m. is too early for a nap?

Pandemic Pushes Puzzle to the Forefront

Judy puts the pieces together

This article 1st appeared in Booming Encore

My wife’s fascination with putting puzzles together has always been somewhat puzzling to me. I simply don’t have the patience for such a time-consuming activity.

However, Judy obviously isn’t the only person currently using puzzles as a big piece of their pandemic-forced homebound entertainment.

Judging by sales, jigsaw puzzles are proving welcome relief for individuals and families all over America and sales are skyrocketing.

Brian Way, the owner of Puzzle Warehouse, the largest distributor of puzzles in the country, reports business is up 2,000% compared to this time last year.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Way told CBS News. “As you look down the aisle, we’ve got people getting orders off the shelves to ship out.

Amazon reported in April that “adult jigsaw puzzle” was the 8th most searched term on its website. In fact, at different times this spring, Amazon, as well as Target and Walmart, were sold out of all but the most expensive puzzles.

But that hasn’t deterred determined puzzle put-togetherers. Unable to purchase new puzzles, they took to exchanging puzzles with other avid enthusiasts. For example, Judy has put together a few puzzles belonging to our apartment complex neighbor Mark, who is an administrator with the National Parks Service and possesses a large collection of puzzles depicting scenes of natural beauty and wildlife.

Others have come up with novel technological ways to satisfy their puzzle itch. Hannah Boehm told NBC 7 News in San Diego that she uses the Next Door app and other social media to arrange puzzle swaps. She will leave a puzzle on her doorstep and someone will take it and leave a different puzzle in its place. Boehm says that process allows both parties to maintain recommended social distancing, adding that she always wipes down the boxes and puzzle pieces before she starts working on her new project.

The jigsaw puzzle itself has a long history. The origins of the puzzles go back to the 1760s when European mapmakers pasted maps onto wood and cut them into small pieces. John Spilsbury, an engraver and mapmaker, is credited with inventing the first jigsaw puzzle in 1767.

Initially, puzzles were considered for play and learning for children only, but puzzles for adults emerged around 1900, and by 1908 a full-blown craze was in progress in the United States much like that of today. 

Adult puzzles range from relatively easy (a few pieces) to extremely challenging (1,000 pieces or more).  While Judy tackles her puzzling task alone, our daughter-in-law Shannon, who is currently with our son Michael and our 2 grandchildren Audrey and Owen on a one-year stay in Australia, convinces her family members to join her in the fun.

Or at least that is the plan. Shannon recently got a complex Harry Potter-themed puzzle for Audrey, who is a huge Harry Potter fan. But Audrey moved on to other things, leaving Shannon to complete the complex puzzle.  She said about a third of the 1,000-piece puzzle was black/navy or dark brown making it difficult to determine which pieces went where.

But my daughter-in-law is nothing if not determined. “It’s torture, but I can’t quit now,” she said. And she didn’t. As you can see, the puzzle was no match for her. Despite the arduousness, the fact of Shannon’s determination certainly didn’t surprise her mother, Sue Sullivan. “You always did like a challenge,” Sue wrote on her daughter’s Facebook page.

Meanwhile, back here in America, Judy discovered a fix for her puzzle addiction. A local gift shop in our underground run by a Taiwanese owner has puzzles for sale. And Judy has already gotten so many there that the owner says she can look at the catalog and she’ll order special puzzles for her.

Man, if this stay-at-home lockdown continues, I guess I will just have to come out of retirement and get a job to support my wife’s puzzling puzzle habit. Can anybody out there solve the puzzle of where to find a high-pay, no-work job in a pandemic and an economic depression?