Walking into the store everything seemed normal. The bakery section was pretty much fully stocked, and I was greeted with that same familiar cold blast of air as you walk in. But after being in the store for just a couple of minutes things began to get odd.
Yes, there were a couple of things missing, but that wasn’t the strangest part. It was the way people acted. They stayed as far away as possible at all times, glancing around to make sure they were not coming into contact with anyone coughing or sniffling. Once, I nearly bumped into a man nearing the aisle corner. He froze, eyes wide, as if my skin was bright blue, and steered his cart as far away from me as possible while muttering “excuse me.”
As more people entered the store after us, I noticed many of them wore masks of all kinds. One woman was bagging groceries hurriedly at the self checkout. She wore rubber gloves and a head wrap that covered her nose and mouth, showing only her eyes. When I asked to take her picture, she said sure along with something about the apocalypse. I saw people wearing cloth masks, surgical masks, construction masks, each one looking more worried and frantic than the next.
There were almost no potatoes, rice, pasta, butter, toilet paper or hand soap. There was absolutely no chicken, ground beef, hand sanitizer or corn. We had specifically gone in the morning so there would be more items. Despite the three item limit Kroger had placed on specific items, I watched one man with a cart full of toilet paper hurriedly go through the self checkout, looking up now and then to see if anyone was staring.
Some employees wore gloves, others didn’t. They chatted about the quarantine and the government loudly, but when I asked if they could say a few words about the current situation they said that the corporate office could speak on the matter.
Everyone was on edge. No one took their time. They walked through the store touching only what they had to, watching others with eagle eyes. The only thing running through their mind was COVID-19.