Procuring Supplies in the Age of Armchair Travel

Adventures in obtaining comestibles while locked down in a big city.

Stuck in our house like 280 million of our closest friends in the US, we’ve had to settle for virtual tours, writing about travel from happy days gone by, and video cocktail parties and happy hours.

But to supply those happy hours, we need stuff to make cocktails, as well as high-nutrition cocktail-party staples like fried macaroni-and-cheese balls and pigs in blankets stuffed with crushed Fritos. So we do this:

Jeff, already somewhat going bonkers from being unused to working from home, steps up to volunteer to undertake a mission-critical trip to the Lucky supermarket on the other side of the holler. (Well, San Francisco’s version of a holler.) These we limit to once per week. (Previously I shopped almost every day. I like the supermarket.)

I have a P-100 mask which we got during the massive wildfires a couple of years back. I feel a little guilty wearing it when my friends at UCSF are facing a shortage, but the truth is this things is full of smoke and likely expired/useless for doctor and nurse purposes. Thus I bring it, along with three cloth grocery bags, and hop into the silver bullet, running out the front gate before the clouds of Coronavirus can swarm around me. Eh, what the hell, it’s warm out and I drive to Lucky with the window down.

It’s about a ninety-second drive, so I should ride my bike. Which I might do if I didn’t have three bags to contend with, and also if I wasn’t so lazy and old. But I get to the parking lot (a supermarket with a parking lot in the city!), cut the engine, and put the mask on. Again, probably useless for doctor and nurse stuff, and also probably not so helpful for me, since I have a beard and the mask doesn’t form a seal with my skin. But I look badass.

Once the mask goes on, it performs three valuable functions: 1) it may stop some virus from getting in my nose and mouth (not my eyes, of course, so there’s that); 2) it’s a reminder not to touch my face (probably its most useful purpose); and 3) the sight of the thing help people voluntarily stay at least six feet away from me.

I get compliments about the mask, which tells you something about these strange times we live in.

I grab a cart and wipe the push-bar down with a Lucky-supplied sanitary wipe. Doesn’t matter; I’m acting as if everything I touch during this outing has a detectable virus load on it, positively itching to jump onto my hands and thence to one of my many mucous membranes.

I use the Shopper Lite app on my iPhone. Here’s a thing: I pick up a box of cereal and drop it in my cart then hold my iPhone. It will also need disinfecting back home.

Some simple rules apply when grabbing stuff for the cart: don’t linger. Know what you want. Don’t inspect labels. Don’t pick something up and replace it. Grab it and in the cart it goes, smartly.

But about that box of cereal: I’m lucky (har har) to find it. Shelves are sparse, though improving. We can get organic chicken but not organic milk. No flour, yeast or rice. Very little beef. Pasta is hit-and-miss. The deli is well stocked, as is the produce section. Booze is fine but forget about any type of yogurt you’d actually want to eat. And not just toilet paper, but nearly every type of paper and cleaning product has gone missing, as this current pandemic apparently requires people to wipe 60-70 times as often as normal.

In line people have been doing OK staying 6ish feet apart, except of course for the clerks and baggers. They also appreciate the mask. And they also won’t touch the bags I brought from home, so I do my own bagging.

My hands are now riddled with disease, so there’s no mask or face touching. I wipe them with a sterile wipe on my way out (for steering wheel protection), load the groceries, drive home, unload, lock up, grocery bags to kitchen. Mask off in one quick movement, set it down. Wash hands. Soak a paper towel in rubbing alcohol and wipe the mask down. Set aside to dry. Put away groceries, bags downstairs – no face touching! – then wash hands again. Mark the calendar to remind us when we last went out and got food – in case I start showing symptoms.

Then it’s cocktail time! Research shows that Coronavirus cannot thrive in people who have an improving cocktail. Our research, of course.