By Mary Lynn Bruny

There was a time oh-so-long-ago – when we use to be able to hug people and see their faces – when I hated going grocery shopping with a passion. But now these occasional forays to the great lands outside the four walls of our protective barrier are one of the highlights of my routine. You see people – yes, scads of actual people – up close! Well, not that close, of course: six feet or more apart. And you don’t actually see them. You may see their eyes and hair, but basically you see their forms. But still, the energy of an actual group of human beings (trying hard to avoid each other) is palpable!

Going through the grocery store use to be boring and predicable. Things would just be on the shelves all the time ready for purchase. Remember that? But now I wonder: Will they have our laundry detergent? Will the soup shelf be stocked? Or, for me, the Holy Grail of all purchases: Could there possible be my favorite ginger snap cookies (Simple BitesTM) that I have not seen since the pandemic began? Be still my beating heart! But alas, no, not recently. Maybe next time . . .

I find the produce section especially exciting. It’s definitely the most complex part of the store as there is no straightforward way of proceeding through it. People are like fish darting in and out grabbing things while avoiding other shoppers. It’s like we’re all the same poles of magnets repelling each other – but very thoughtfully repelling each other.

This is one thing I like about the pandemic: Most people go out of their way to be considerate and kind. It’s like we’re all thinking, “Life is hard enough. Let’s just try and be a bit more decent to each other.”

But on the flip side there is occasionally that one unhappy human itching for a confrontation, a sad side effect of this pandemic. This unhappy human will instigate a nasty spat with another shopper for some perceived insult or infraction. You know said unhappy human just wants to get into a fuss so they can yell and get their grumpy yahoos out and spread their bad mojo.

Sometimes you’ll be in the vicinity of such a kerfuffle in progress. As a person who hates nasty conflict, I divert my eyeballs from the action and scurry away like a cockroach before a WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) smack down-like fight occurs. Thus far nothing of the sort has happened in my local grocery stores. But this possibility keeps me on my toes: It raises my adrenaline and keeps my fight-or-flight response on high alert. Who knows what craziness might happen today by the canned-bean end cap display?

On a happy note, one thing I really look forward to now is checkout. Remember pre-COVID times when you would mindlessly have a conversation with the checkout clerk while thinking ahead to the rest of your day? Now I find I am engrossed, downright riveted, by anything the safely plexiglassed clerk is talking about: his flaring eczema (poor guy), the mpg of cars he’s considering buying, his cat’s diabetes. Whatever the topic, I’m in! To actually see and hear another human being – a stranger no less – talking so near me! Thrilling!

After all this excitement I return with my bounty to the fours walls of my quarantine homestead basking in the delight of the outing. What a glorious day! Can’t wait until I go shopping again. Maybe the Gods of Groceries will smile down on me and stock my ginger snaps. A woman can only hope.

By Mary Lynn Bruny. Mary Lynn is a Colorado freelance writer. Contact her at ml.bruny@comcast.net.