I had been formulating my list of places to visit after COVID for a very long time. That’s how I thought about it: After COVID. Well, it isn’t that simple – one day we can’t and the next day we can. Openings and closings do happen overnight but that doesn’t mean the virus does. That didn’t stop me from dreaming about getting my hair cut, nails done, and eating at my favorite restaurants. Also, I hadn’t been in a pharmacy or grocery store or any other retail establishment in over a year. None of my elder friends had either. We were scared, so we stayed home and ordered in.
When it was two weeks after my last vaccination (thank you, God), I pulled out my list of places to visit and took stock. The salon to get my hair cut and nails done topped the list. I’m embarrassed to say my agenda wasn’t populated with museums or places of worship or even my local theaters and nurseries that I love and support. There were retail stores, and some of these stores I never would have gone to if not for being forced to stay away. The list included a major crafts store, a dollar store, and at the very top, a chain store that sold a rotating bunch of reduced-priced items, from tiki lamps to car parts.
Rod agreed to drive so I could focus on the task at hand. We got there as the doors opened the Sunday morning after Daylight Savings. It was perfect; no one was shopping. I had the entire store to myself! I was masked and used disinfectant wipes on the cart as I headed in.
It felt surreal to begin traversing the aisles knowing there was nothing I had to buy nor was I time constrained. The thought of going from one end of the store to the other to just shop thrilled me. Take your time, you’ve waited so long,
The first aisle displayed snacks and party supplies and plastic utensils; all the brilliant colors were astounding. Then on the next couple of aisles there were swim fins, googles, and floaties, sheets, towels, wash clothes, then sticky notes and plastic pot bottoms, scented candles and men’s slippers that wouldn’t last one washing. All this and thousands more items. I got a quarter of the way through the store, and as I rounded the last of many rows of foods and myriad snacks, I ground to a standstill next to a shelf of hyacinth bulbs and cleaning products.
It became all too much. I felt dizzy from the warehouse smell of so many products just out of their larger packing containers.
After twelve months in my tiny apartment, this store, which was overflowing with bargains, stopped me cold, mid-shop. I couldn’t handle the amount of product that might be entertaining but that I didn’t need. I certainly didn’t need pink eyeshadow, a half-slip, or a new flower basket, no matter how inexpensive. It was all too overwhelming.
This much-anticipated shopping trip that I dreamt about turned out to be a very different experience than I anticipated. I gathered my purse and mumbled an apology to the check-out clerk for leaving my empty basket on aisle 7 and exited the store.
“I’m surprised to see you,” Rod said as I slide into the passenger seat.
It felt strange to close the door on something that had only opened a moment ago.