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Let Inga Tell You: Grocery shopping in the time of COVID

Boxes are marked on the floor of a local store to show proper social distancing.
(Inga)

Let me say up front that I am hardly a germophobe. (One look at my house would convince you.) But the one thing I’ve never liked touching during flu season — or at all during the current pandemic — is the payment keypad and wand at grocery stores and pharmacies.

At the pharmacy, even if you pay cash you still have to use the wand to sign that you picked up your meds. You can’t help but reflect every time you touch those things that you might as well have shaken hands with the last 100 COVID-carrying or influenza-afflicted people in that line.

I know there is food delivery, but I feel bad for making other people assume my risk. Besides, I’m old, so nobody cares if I die except … except … .

Anyway, so before leaving for the supermarket, I try to map out my anti-contamination plan like it’s a major offensive. This is not a project for sissies.

Step 1: Wash hands before leaving house.

Step 2: Have Lysol and alcohol wipes, latex gloves, trash bag and mask on passenger seat at the ready.

Step 3: Before getting out of the car at store, put on latex gloves and mask. Put cash in pocket if using so don’t have to touch wallet, along with three alcohol wipes in a sandwich bag and my debit card in right pocket ready for action.

Step 4: Get allegedly sanitized cart from high school kid who seems to just be spritzing blue liquid COVID Death in the general direction of the handle and slapping it a few times with a rag that probably harbors more coronavirus than New York City. His dead eyes say, “I will never complain about school again.” Enter store if no wait. Otherwise get in socially distanced line.

Step 5: Uh-oh. Glasses are fogging up! Worse, nose is starting to run from seasonal allergies from so much rain. Use sleeve to de-fog glasses as much as possible. Try to snort snot back in nose. #fail

Step 6: Hit paper products aisle first. Empty, but hope springs eternal.

Step 7: Cellphone rings. Do not answer it! Even if it’s the call you’ve been waiting two days for from the repair guy who you’re hoping you can bribe with serious cash to come fix your broken stove.

Step 8: But dang! Really need the stove! Stick gloved hand into purse and pull out now-contaminated phone. It’s not the stove guy. You’ve just risked COVID-19 to answer a spam call in a foreign language.

Step 9: Get in socially distanced line to pay for the one-third of the items on your list that they actually had. Clerk, wondering how he/she managed to end up in the second most dangerous job in America, grabs a wipe and does a harried swipe of keypad. We both know that thing has “respirator” written all over it.

Step 10: Show time! Focus! Remove debit card from right pocket and stick in icky, nasty keypad machine. Type in PIN, hit Enter. Machine says to remove card.

Step 11: Like you’re falling for that? Your gloved hands have just touched the keypad and are now awash in COVID cooties.

Step 12: Quickly strip off gloves inside out and stuff in left pocket. Remove alcohol wipes from baggy in right pocket. Remove and swab debit card, hoping wipes won’t deactivate the magnetic strip because the bank is basically closed until further notice. Drop card in purse. Quickly wipe now-bare hands with the second wipe then grocery cart handle with third. Stuff both wipes back in baggy and put back in right pocket.

Step 13: Exit store, throwing away baggies from right pocket and gloves from left pocket, trying to touch only the insides of the gloves. Unload groceries into car trunk and return cart with elbows.

Step 14: Enter car. Take Lysol wipes and wipe down steering wheel and gear shift, and use alcohol wipes to do hands again. Clean Lysol wipes dispenser with Lysol wipes.

Step 15: Oy gevalt! You answered your phone in the store! Put on new gloves, carefully remove phone from interior of purse that is now probably a coronavirus factory and clean with alcohol wipes. Dispose of gloves and wipes in trash bag on passenger seat.

Step 16: Wash hands thoroughly again as soon as you get home. Swab appropriate groceries with Lysol wipes, keeping in mind recent news story that poison control centers have had a 20 percent increase in calls from people poisoning themselves using toxic chemicals to disinfect their groceries. Wonder at people who would eat lettuce soaked in Clorox. #Darwin.

Step 17. Wipe down counters with Lysol wipes and do doorknobs just for good measure. Have complete paranoia attack over what you’ve touched that you don’t even realize.

Step 18: Pour glass of wine even though it is only 11 o’clock in the morning.

— Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in the La Jolla Light. Reach her at inga47@san.rr.com.