Even in lock-down we need to eat and so New Zealand's supermarkets remain open and are frantically busy.
The first time I went shopping during lock-down it was such a novelty - a much needed change of scenery from our little cottage where I am bubbled up with Coss. Only Coss...Noone but Coss...
And so I eagerly offered to buy groceries, not only for my mother but for two other couples - all dear friends who are over 70 years of age and not meant to be out and about.
So, let me tell you about the new high-light of my week - supermarket shopping.
1) The day before, I email my bubbled-up friends and ask them to send me a shopping list with precise details please as to preferred brand, flavour and quantity. So, for example. don't just write 2 tins of baked beans. Be specific. Two 450 gram tins of WATTIES BAKED BEANZ with 50% less sugar. Thank you!
2) Armed with 4 separate lists I pull up at the supermarket car-park and groan when I see the long queue of people waiting with their empty trolleys to get through the door. Unbelievably, the line snakes further back than the 'Daily Cafe'. Me and my trolley join in at the end of this patient and polite line and I chat to the Indian woman in front of me rather than the aloof man behind me. Like about half of the people, he is wearing a face-mask but also blue rubber gloves. I wear neither.
3) What else is there to do but observe people? Many faces are staring down at their mobile phones and one lady is even reading a book - so slow is progress toward the supermarket entrance she has time to prop up her book on her trolley and read a big chunk of a novel.
4) Finally I am allowed in. A young woman asks me to open out my hands and she sprays them with sanitiser from a bottle. Then she wipes down the bar of my trolley. "Yes, ma'am, you may now go in - but no ma'am you cannot use those bags. Just put everything loose in the trolley and sort it out later at your car. Our cashiers are too busy to cater for separate lots of groceries and payments".
Fair enough, I think, but mighty inconvenient.
5) It is fortunate that I can take as long as I like in the supermarket because I am not familiar with many of the items I am required to buy for others. Where on earth are the Twin-Pack salamis? The Black Forest coffee sachets? The dry mustard?
6) There I was ambling down the cleaner-product aisle looking for Janola. I had found the lemon-scented Morning Fresh detergent but there was no bleach to be seen. I continue on my way and a woman coming from the opposite direction stops her trolley right in front of mine - in such a resolute manner I am convinced she knows me and I should know her. So I smile and say, "Hi. Howzit going?"
But it is soon obvious to me that she is not standing there like a sergeant-major just to make small talk. I wonder what I have done wrong this time. She continues to stare me down, then points at the floor. Well, what do you know but there is a big arrow made of masking-tape pointing in the opposite direction. Apparently I was going the wrong way, flouting the rules of organised shopping during a world-wide coronavirus pandemic. But holy moley, am I truly supposed to notice a minor detail like a huge arrow on the floor when my 62 year-old head can hardly cope with 4 shopping lists?
We are meant to zig-zag our way through the supermarket in an orderly manner so, like an obedient citizen, I about-turned my trolley but then had to go back several aisles for the dessicated coconut, thanks to these new-fangled rules.
7) I then waited 35 minutes in a long line to pay for my huge pile of groceries. Easter eggs were toppling out in all directions, that being the one product you can buy as much of as you want. For everything else there is a limit of 2. I got tired of staring at the frozen peas on my left and what was left of the bread on my right, so chatted to the friendly woman behind me. She ended up borrowing my phone to text her husband - "Sorry darling", she messaged, "I am stuck in here but I have your beer".
A loud-speaker announcement asked us to please pay with plastic cards, not cash. Is cash now a grubby word? Because it's too grubby?
8) Hallelujah! I am almost at the counter but the girl behind the till has yet to disinfect the conveyor-belt before I can start to put my interminable amount of shopping on it. Heaven forbid, but the customer just before me might have left a trail of corona virus from her shopping to infect mine. We can't have that.
9) I pay $398 for my mound of shopping and, hugely relieved to get out, I proceed to sort out the goodies into separate bags and boxes in the boot of my car.
10) I deliver the first lot of shopping to the friends who live nearest. They are expecting me because I texted to say, "Put on the kettle!" That was for their own coffee, not mine. I have my own thermos- flask in the car, my own cup, teabag, milk and teaspoon. I sit on my own chilly-bin and enjoy a much needed cuppa with these crazies who I hardly see these days except on ZOOM. They are sitting on picnic chairs at least 5 metres from me, a safe distance, surely?
11) While I am recovering from post-supermarket trauma, I pull out the longest-ever shopping docket and Paula works out with her calculator exactly what they owe me. Later they pay me online.
12) I deliver the rest of the groceries to the beach where my friend, Trish, lives and we drink tea together, she from her thermos and me from mine. We perch our bottoms on wooden posts about 2 metres apart - the legal social distance - and catch up on each other's lives in the cool salty breeze.
13) I go home and there is Coss still as engrossed at the computer as when I left this morning. Poor Coss has to plan on-line lessons for his locked-down students, a major task. Last week he plonked me in front of another computer and made me pretend I was one of those students. He was testing sound quality, he said.
I winked from my screen to his and, with fluttering eye-lashes, suggested that surely I deserved an A+ for my assignment?
He rolled his eyes and then spied Easter eggs on the table.