How does one safely shop for groceries the old-fashioned way during this pandemic and what are the new hassles and annoyances we must grapple with?
Let me recount my experience similarly shared by many families.
We have been warned that asymptomatic people may unknowingly shed their virus in the air when they speak or through touch. To make it worse, reports abound about these viruses remaining active for long periods on food packaging, shopping carts, table tops and door handles.
As my wife (Rina) and I fall into the ‘vulnerable age group’ at the risk of catching the virus with deadly consequences, it would be foolhardy for us to ignore or gloss over these warnings. So our latest mantra is “keep a safe distance”, and “wash! wash! wash!”
Donning a long-sleeve shirt, a pair of long pants, a pink mask (no need to put on lipstick!) and armed with a hand sanitiser and a long shopping list, my wife (a.k.a Home Affairs Minister) goes to the Petaling Jaya Section 17 wet market whenever our supplies run low.
For packaged, frozen and dairy items, she will patronise the supermarket near our Taman Tun Dr Ismail home. Waiting in a long line is now the norm because of social distancing and crowd control.
At 6am last Saturday, when the sky was still pitch dark, my wife was hoping to beat the queue at the market. But about 40 other people had the same idea!
And so she found herself at number 38 in the queue. The line grew and grew and snaked around the building while those lucky enough to get into the market proper shopped at their own sweet pace.
That day it took my wife one and half hours to finally get in. The enforcement officers through the PA system begged the customers to complete their shopping in 20 minutes, but their pleas fell on deaf ears as there was no way of enforcing the time limit.
The joy of going marketing has also died. Once inside the market, my wife just grabbed the vegetables, fruits and meat, paid and wheezed off; no time to pick and choose, no time to bargain, let alone time for a friendly banter or gossip.
She was singularly mindful of keeping her one-metre distance from the next person and of getting out ASAP.
Yet another arduous regime awaits to be followed when the wife gets home.
She washes her hands at the front garden tap and rushes into the bathroom for a head-to-toe shower. In the meantime, I have strict instructions to follow.
All the bags of purchases are to be dumped in the ‘disinfection yard’ next to the garden tap. My duty is to discard the plastic bags, wash each item thoroughly, dry them with a clean cloth and repack them into fresh plastic bags.
Only then can I bring them into the house. Phew! I’m thankful that she goes grocery shopping only once a week. Yet the fridge seems to be bursting at its seams.
Fortunately, there are only two of us living in our TTDI abode. But because I get hungry easily perhaps because of boredom, the quantities purchased are more than our usual requirements.
In spite of these hassles, we are thankful that we have been able to avoid our invisible enemy (touch wood), cultivate new levels of patience, and grow a new appreciation for the many liberties we once took for granted.