My First Foray From a Sheltered Life Back to a Normal One

What’s the same and what’s different

Image by Omni Matryx from Pixabay

Why I left home and ventured out

Yesterday I shopped for the first time since early March. At almost 80, I’m considered one of the most vulnerable during this coronavirus pandemic. Since Gavin Newsom told us Californians to stay home in mid-March, I have followed my county’s guidelines for activity and social distancing.

I was allowed to mail packages for my home mail order business and to walk to my mailbox or outdoors for exercise. I was also able to have outpatient surgery in a doctor’s office to remove cancer from my nose. But until yesterday, others have done my shopping for me and delivered groceries to my doorstep. Yesterday was my first foray on a journey back to normal. Here’s how it played out.

For a few weeks, my Toyota Venza had been flashing a message that I needed maintenance work done. I have avoided it since I don’t drive much while sheltering at home. But my husband, who is over 80, insisted it had to be done and he was going to take it in himself. He was diagnosed with a bladder infection four days ago and could not drive while on an antibiotic that makes him a bit dizzy. I decided to take the car to the dealer in San Luis Obispo, 30 miles away, myself. I took a mask in case it was required, but it wasn’t. If I had enough energy left afterward, I was planning to shop at Costco, a few blocks from the repair shop.

San Luis Obispo County has had only one death since the pandemic was recognized and monitored here. As of May 19, we had 247 confirmed cases of the virus and 213 people had fully recovered. Our total population is 283,000. At no time have we had more than five people with the virus in the hospital. Most recover at home. For this reason, I decided to take the risk. The numbers were on my side.

I prepared to stay safe. I armed myself with a small bottle of hand sanitizer for my purse, some disinfectant wipes in a plastic bag, a couple of disposable gloves, and a mask. I would never have taken these precautions before when getting a car serviced. I also took a protein drink in an insulated bag in case I got hungry. I took my phone to keep me busy.

What happened at the Toyota service center

Although many customers and personnel interfacing with them had masks on, customers were not required to wear them, so I didn’t. There was a shield between me and the person processing my order for service. I only saw one other person in the large waiting room while I was there. A couple of others waited on benches outside. The restrooms were clean and supplied with soap and paper towels. I had downloaded a murder mystery onto my phone to read during the two-hour wait to get my car back.

After the maintenance had been finished, I went back to the office area to pay. I did not need to touch anything but my credit card. I brought my own pen to sign the credit slips. After I walked out and opened my car door, I sanitized my hands and wiped the steering wheel and all the controls and door handles with one of my wipes. Since I still felt strong enough, I drove the few blocks down the road to Costco.

Costco shopping during the coronavirus pandemic

I made two orders from during this pandemic, but to get fresh foods and produce we have to shop in the store or have someone else do it. We normally only visit the store when we have other errands to do in San Luis Obispo. This conserves time and energy.

I knew this trip to Costco would have to last me for a couple of months. There are some products I can only buy at Costco, and we were out of them. I needed to stock up on candy with dark chocolate. I needed Kirkland vitamins and supplements. We were also down to our last 18-pack of the Premier brand protein drinks my husband considers essential on a daily basis. One saves about $9.00 a package by buying them in person rather than ordering them online. We also use a lot of nuts and dried fruit which one can buy more economically at Costco.

After I parked, I noticed there were only two people ahead of me in line. I was thankful because I was tired before I even got to Costco. I did need to wear my mask to get in, and that made it harder because wearing a mask fogs up my glasses a bit. I tried to observed social distancing, but that was difficult since people had to pass each other in the aisles and get around obstacles. They did limit how many could be in the store at once, so the aisles weren’t as crowded as usual. I never had to worry about lines, masks, or social distancing at Costco before the pandemic.

Another thing that was different about this trip to Costco was the rearrangement of the merchandise in the store. It was harder to get in and out fast because it was harder to find what I needed. Many things I needed were also out of stock, but I couldn't know that until I’d searched all the aisles to see if the products I wanted had just been moved to a different location.

Tasty barkTHINS I like to buy at Costco. I took the photo.

One thing I was looking for was barkTHINS chocolates. Costco is the only place I can buy those in bulk sizes. I can’t afford to buy them in the small sizes other stores sell. They were not in the candy or snack aisles in the usual place. Instead, I bought several packages of a new brand that I’d not seen before — Kind Bark Dark Chocolate Almond & Sea Salt.

As I continued to roam the aisles, I found a package of barkTHINS someone had left in another product display. This gave me hope. When I was ready to check out I asked the service desk where those barkTHINS were and someone went to find them when I showed him the package. He came back empty-handed and said I’d been lucky to find that one. They had been discontinued in mid-March. As it turned out, Kind Bark was just as tasty.

By the time I was finally able to push my cart weighing close to 200 pounds to checkout, I’d been to every corner of the store and was almost exhausted. I was hoping everything would fit in my car. It took some effort but I got it all in.

I sanitized my hands and finished the protein drink I’d started drinking before going in. As I opened the glove compartment to put something away, the whole compartment fell out. I was hoping I could get back to Toyota before it closed. Still, I went to gas up before leaving since Costco is also the best place to fill my tank.

I was happy to see shorter gas lines than ever before. I got out my disposable glove to wear while pumping gasoline. When I finished I threw it away, sanitized my hands, and took off back to Toyota. I was sweating it out at the signal at 4:55 waiting for the light to change. I couldn’t remember if the service center closed at five or six. Since the light didn’t change until 4:59, I’m glad I didn’t have to be there until six. I made it with time to spare.

Before leaving Costco I had put everything I wanted the sun to sanitize on the passenger seat. Back at the Toyota Service Center, the service rep was leaning his body on that seat trying to put the compartment back in before I could move anything out of his way. He said the mechanic had removed the compartment and failed to put all the parts back. Finally, the service rep drove the car back to the mechanic and in a few minutes, he was back with the glove compartment intact again. After I wiped everything down once more, I started home.

Shopping is definitely harder than it was before the coronavirus struck. But I’ve learned I can probably manage my own shopping again without too much risk. After all, if I can survive Costco shopping, I think I can shop anywhere, as long as I’m careful.

Christian, bereaved adoptive mom, blogger, amateur nature photographer, voracious reader. Married 54 years. Central Coast of California.

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