Shopping during the Pandemic by Amy Landau

Amy Landau is a native New Yorker who lives in Easthampton, MA in Hampshire County. In her writing, she is fascinated by private states of emotional upheaval. Her work has appeared in, Word Riot and HopeDance. She is a member of the Straw Dog Writers Guild.

Shopping during the Pandemic

Big E
I wear a mask, though the Governor hasn’t mandated it yet. As I walk down an aisle, a young woman approaches me with no mask. I ask if she could back up so that I can get out of the aisle.

“We’re supposed to social distance,” I say.

She points to the taped arrows on the floor.

“I think we’re supposed to follow these.” I turn around, but another woman is behind me, also walking against the arrow. In a panic, I rush past her. We are only a couple of feet from each other. At least she is wearing a mask.

Next, chocolate. There is the woman with no mask again. I wait for her to exit, then debate absurdly on the best chocolate. This isn’t why I came here! And yet, the drive for chocolate is strong, maybe stronger than my fear of death.

Big Y

It’s important to be strategic when shopping in a large supermarket. You don’t want to unnecessarily extend your time and chance of exposure.

But it’s hard to think clearly when the mask is on. You breathe short anxious breaths through your mouth because breathing through your nose is too difficult. Just breathing at all is scary.

On the way back from the produce section to get the thing I forgot, I pass the card section.

All the sympathy cards are missing.

River Valley Co-Op

Not an absurd amount of cars, I think. Maybe this will be OK. There is a line outside and the ground is marked at 6’ intervals with red tape.

Everyone is wearing masks because it’s required. The man in front of me is not standing on his tape, but a few steps behind it, so that means I have to stand behind my tape too to maintain the proper distance.

A woman at the mark ahead of him is talking loudly on her cell phone. She puts us all at risk by emitting copious aerosolized droplets that shoot like a geyser through the barrier of her mask, or so I imagine.

The wait feels interminable. At the yellow-tape finish line, there is a woman who alarms me because she pulls down her mask to talk loudly to customers.

In the store, I lunge toward the frozen section for my veggie meatballs. But they’re missing. The shelf is empty except for the ground veggie stuff no one likes.

I try to follow the arrows, lining up awkwardly around the shelves. A scruffy older man wants to enter the line from a side aisle. He pauses when he sees me.

I ask him, “Can you please move back?” He obliges. I feel mean.

When I exit the store, I can breathe again.

Why then, do I turn to ask the staff person a question as I leave, “When is the least busy time?”

She pulls her mask down again and shouts, “I have no idea. It’s always busy!”

I back away, holding my breath.