Love in the Time of corona #5 | Monday, 6th April 2020

“One person out, one person in.” It’s a clear supermarket policy when heading into town to buy the essentials for another week’s food and hygiene goods. Two weeks ago – the lockdown was just called a few days earlier – we got out of the car at the parking lot and a supermarket assistant immediately asked if both of us had to go in for shopping. “That would be nice”, I said politely and we were summoned to get in the queue within a two meters distance, marked with stripes of yellow & black hazard tape on the chequered pavement; a real piece of art, the kind that could trigger an epileptic seizure. “So nice…”, my Love said, positioned in front of me, within the proper distance, far out of reach of my arm, “…there is no rush going in and out the supermarket.” He hates the stress rushing. So do I.

Just before entering the store I tore the grocery list in half, so we could go each our own way, but once being inside that appeared impractical. Although we share our daily life in close contact, we kept apart, my Love pushing the trolley and I moving slowly forward in front, with an almost two metres detachment. All went fine, courteously and calmly, twisting and curving through the aisles, trying not to forget any listed item. We did end up home again, safe. Last week in the food store it was even less busy, couples standing next to each other, patiently waiting to get in. So, my Love and I entered side by side. In the supermarket, the aisles were more populated with staff stacking the shelves than customers buying food. But the gangways indicating pasta, rice, flour and toilet roll were empty. Time seemed to have deep-freezed, not only at the frozen food storage. No annoyance even at the checkouts, where the cashiers, protected by justifiable marked no-standing areas, to keep a distance from the customers, called us one by one. Also, this seemed a slow-motion picture. We did not bother.

The once a week essential outing with the car to the supermarket, made us realise there is still an outside world, a faraway drive from the village where we live and the nearby countryside where we hike, called exercise these times. Both times now it felt like we have not been for months in a usually busy place. The newspaper’s and online empty street city photographs, looks like being photoshopped, hard imagining how it is to live in a flat in a noisy and densely populated metropolitan boulevard. On the radio a journalist discovers the silence in the city, where singing birds and NHS-support-handclapping people make the “noise”.

A few days ago, I read in the newspaper, our most frequented supermarket implemented with immediate effect a “one adult person for a household”-rule. Yesterday evening I called an uncle living in Belgium and he said: “If you both want to go to the supermarket, you both have to take a trolley. And also, if you go alone for a few items, you have to push a trolley in front of you.” Tomorrow, I am browsing through our favourite cookery books for another seven recipes, and make our weekly essentials shopping list. My Love and I have still no idea when who is going to the supermarket this week. Time will tell…

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