Thursday, April 23, 2020

Shopping with Zombies

Here in Corona Virus Panama we've been confined to shopping on only a few days a week, and only on a day that corresponds to your gender, and a time that corresponds to your your age. So men over 60 get to shop during a two hour travel/shop/travel window on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Monday, Wednesday and Friday the ladies may try. 
My ride left our marina just at 11:00 am. needing to return by 1:00 pm., and this was a problem for me as I was helping a neighboring boat by picking up some items for them too. So I was in a bit of a hurry to finish one list and start another. 

After a short wait in line at the door, supposedly to meter the total shoppers inside to a proper social distance, I was allowed past the hand spray station and inside to an unusual circus. All the shoppers were old, and confused men.
While standing stock still in front of their cart, each with a cell phone in one hand and a list in the other, they wore a collective grimace of frustration and confusion. It was easy to tell that they didn't normally shop. They hadn't learned the whereabouts of most items, and they didn't have the knowledge to make a lot of little, yet important, decisions about what kind, how much, cost or value. My need for speed was immediately thwarted by near gridlock in every aisle.

Any concept of not blocking the center of the aisle with themselves and their cart was completely lost in the blank stares and rolling eyes I saw as they called home and waited to be fed the necessary info of where, how much, and what kind. It was like shopping with zombies.

I quickly figured out that I'd have to leave my cart at the back of the store between 2 pallets and carry everything to it just to be able to move much at all because trying to push a cart past all the fixed in place old male pillars of salt just wasn't possible. Compounding this issue was my neighbor's list which I could only half complete even with one phone call while moving without a cart. Some of what they wanted was out of stock, some not where they said it would be, and some not the kind they asked for. But I was surely getting more done than the fellows I passed more than once stuck in the same row. Clearly asking the friendly and helpful store employees stocking in many places was taboo, either by male pattern stubbornness or the fear of bridging the language barrier. Almost all of the old white men were from the gated communities and waterfront expat neighborhoods in this part of the country. But either way I never saw a one of them, except me, try to get help except from their phones. I just wade in with some Spanish, some English, and a faith in human helpfulness. I was, as usual, well rewarded.

Once through the first list and checked out, I left my first cart with security and dove in again. Now the idea of letting too many folks in at once had failed because the first round of guys were still lost. As I got my new cart to my loading area at the back again, I was struck by the number of zombies still waiting behind the one in front of him, and the one in front of him, and so on. With armfuls I turned sideways several times an aisle to negotiate the maze of stalled gents and return to fill my cart. I felt both behind schedule, since I only had an hour, and yet still exhilaratingly mobile. I passed by several guys with their heads stuck in cooler cases and their carts blocking the whole aisle totally oblivious to anyone else's needs. I worked my list back and forth around the store returning to areas of need when larger log-jams were reduced, leaving just enough space to slither through and capture a prize, or the last four nondairy yogurts.

 The meat and cheese counter was a "take a number and grow older" rats nest that happily this vegan wannabe avoided altogether. The produce area was wall to wall carts with too many men frozen in place handling 20 potatoes to buy 4, and calling home yet again to find out if she meant red or white onions, and the big kind or the little ones. Dashing back to the frozen cases at the end of this crazy relay I held the door for a guy who finally found the Haagen-daz when I pointed out it was 2 doors down. I grabbed the frozen fruit we use to supplement our smoothies, and made for the checkout again. Pushing carts, plural, out into the warm sunshine was like returning to reality. I recall thinking how Sarah and I shopping together had surely served me well, and just as surely I'd be insisting it was her turn on ladies day next.

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Suzanne said...

Oh my, Bob! Never thought of the logistics and mayhem behind men shopping alone. Luckily we are in Bocas del Toro where the population is quite a bit smaller. Take care,MvAlizann

Palma said...

VERY FUNNY! Happy shopping to us all.