It’s April 2020, the peak of Coronavirus paranoia. You haven’t left the house in weeks. As your food supply dwindles, you have no choice but to voyage to the eye of the storm. Trader Joe’s. After you leave the safety of your car, you begin to make your way towards the entrance. However, as you get closer, you notice the line of people standing six feet apart, snaking around the building, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the entrance of an Imagine Dragons concert.
Half an hour later, after mindlessly scrolling through the Daily Mail articles on Snapchat and checking the number of United States COVID cases (just one more time), you make it inside the warzone. The employee at the entrance sprays hand sanitizer into your hands, and you wrinkle your nose at the putrid smell of rotting oranges and the porta potties at a 5k race. Your senses are overwhelmed.
There, in the middle of the Trader Joe’s produce section, you can feel the apocalypse setting in. This is the end, you think to yourself. Then, you bag four bananas for the week. You then turn the corner, expecting the worst. You suspiciously side eye the teenager restocking the greek yogurts and hold your breath as you speed walk past him. Close call.
As you enter the cleaning supplies aisle, your pulse skyrockets to 200. No more clorox wipes? No more Charmin Ultra Strong bears staring into your soul? Goosebumps. You consider your next options for wiping: beef jerky or a rice cake, but that’s a lot of friction. You awkwardly wait until the person blocking the aisle moves, and you pick up a can of cat food in the meantime so it doesn’t look like you’re waiting for them. Spoiler alert: you don’t even own a cat.
When you finally check out, you hesitate on whether or not to use the keypad to enter your club card number. Gingerly, you use the tips of your fingernails to punch in the numbers. Your reusable bags are sitting in the trunk of your car, and every cell of your body screams in pain as the cashier loads your groceries into those flimsy paper bags.
Finally, you make it back to your car. Safety. Refuge. Then, you bathe every exposed body part in hand sanitizer. Paranoia has consumed your life. When you get home, you disinfect every surface of every package and run to the shower to cleanse yourself of that filthy grocery store air.
Flash forward 6 months. It’s October. You want to go to Safeway to pick up ice cream. As you wait in line, you don’t even bother to check the case numbers. They’re too high to keep track. When you enter, you see a gray haired boomer with his mask hanging loosely beneath their nose. People walking past each other in the same aisle. The toilet paper shelves are full again, and you marvel that toilet paper was once as valuable as Spotify Premium just a few months ago.