By Katherine Wright 

In this pandemic era, crowded grocery stores have changed from annoying situations to full-fledged battlegrounds. Dirty looks are flashed across the store when people turn the wrong direction down a one-way aisle or walk within your imaginary six-foot-diameter bubble. If someone sneezes, forget about it.

On the other hand, trips to the grocery store are welcome social outings in a world now inundated with masks, hand sanitizer and constant anxiety. We are forced to be excited about the most mundane experiences, because it’s all we have. 

For this same reason, the grocery store has become a place of humanity and entertainment — along with the inevitable mistrust, annoyance and frantic use of Lysol spray. It seems as if I could spend hours roaming the one-way aisles, soaking up the outside world as I pretend to read nutritional labels. 

I now look forward to these trips and they have inspired a lot of grocery store-specific contemplations: 

  • A few months ago, we would have been shocked to learn that the pandemic is still happening in September, still consuming our lives. We had to believe there was an end in sight, even if we didn’t know when. We got through it, and we learned from it, but we needed that hope — oh wow, this apple is bruised, is it too late to get out of line?
  • What’s with the charcuterie board trend? I mean, other than it being delicious and the perfect assortment of everyone’s favorite foods. 
  • I should really update my LinkedIn profile. 
  • How do critics judge movies? How many movies have gotten a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes? How accurate is it, really?
  • On the headband trend: will it make me look stylish, or will I look like my fourth-grade self? Either way, I’m going for it. 
  • I wonder what my elementary school teachers are up to now. Teaching little kids via Zoom has to be an absolute nightmare. I guess you just have to mute everyone and hope for the best. 
  • How do stores decide when foods go on sale? Are they damaged? Are they about to go bad? Do they have too much of the product in stock? It must be hard to own a grocery store. How do you avoid foods going bad before being purchased? How often do you have to monitor that? 

There’s a lot to think about when you’re pushing a cart of groceries, hoping the people behind you aren’t judging you for your unhealthy food choices. You have the most random thoughts, a jumbled mess of obscure commentary that you might have mentioned to your friends over the past few months if you had seen them as regularly as you used to. 

In these quarantined days, you start to notice how much you need to practice your social skills. Talking to new people nowadays doesn’t come as naturally as it used to. It feels almost forced and awkward, because we’re all so out of practice. But even still, it’s nice to be around people, even if just for an essential trip to buy produce. 

Cheers to a future world where we can dread running errands again. Until then, I will enjoy buying crackers and re-enacting the plot of my favorite movies in my head as I wait for an open self-checkout register.