28-03-2020 Lockdown Day 5: Retail therapy, anyone?

A spot of retail therapy is usually sufficient to lift the spirits a little, no matter how mundane the required or desired item might be; even going out to buy milk offers sneaky opportunities for snaffling a bar of chocolate or two, whereas visiting the local DIY or garden centre is a journey into paradise for someone like me.  Unfortunately, right now, retail therapy no longer exists.  It has died a sudden death and rapidly morphed into another beast entirely, an experience which is not only unpleasant, time-consuming and frustrating, but is also so anxiety-inducing that I am actually reduced me to tears by the time I get back home again.

Today I had to do a bit of shopping, nothing especially urgent but supplies in a few basics were running low and now there seems to be neither an easy way of acquiring stuff nor any certainty of success.  Following my experiences (both positive and negative) of last week, I’ve spent a bit of time trying to figure out the best way of tackling what I now call ‘the shopping dilemma’.  Clearly, the supermarket-in-town experience is definitely not to be repeated since it was both unsuccessful and upsetting, online orders are a bit of a gamble because even if you get a delivery slot there’s no guarantee of what items you’ll get by the time it lands, and the only other option is the small Co-op in the village, the clear winner a few short days ago, with only a short wait and actual stuff on the shelves.  I had intended to hit the shops yesterday but wimped out due to the anticipated stress of it all, so had to go today instead.

My first stop was at a small supermarket in the next village, part of a large chain and a real gem under ‘normal’ circumstances, so thought it might be worth a try.  But no; the queue snaked around about half of the car park, and people had been queuing for more than half an hour in the cold and rain.  Next stop, the recently well-stocked village shop now has a ‘one in, one out’ policy which meant I had to queue for about 20 minutes only to find most of the shelves were bare.  On seeing this yet again, I had a ‘f*ck it!’ moment, which I suspect many people are having right now – it’s clearly no longer possible to just ‘nip out’ to the shops for something and realistically expect to find what you want or need.

So what’s the solution?  I have no idea and I’m genuinely struggling with this.  I used to get online deliveries, mainly because my health condition makes it difficult for me to bend, lift and carry so it makes things much easier for someone to do the heavy work for me.  But delivery slots are now as precious as loo roll, and looking online tonight, availability is zero for at least 3 weeks; even if you’re lucky enough to have nabbed one, you certainly won’t get everything you ordered because panic-buyers have depleted normal stock levels.

current availability of online delivery slots from a major supermarket chain

Queuing outside supermarkets or even smaller shops, regardless of weather conditions, is also a problem for me because my bones and joints are equivalent to those of someone in their eighties, so I can’t stand for more than a few minutes without experiencing pain.  I’m aware that there are special times allocated at supermarkets to prioritise the elderly or NHS workers, but I don’t neatly fall into either of those categories and it would feel fraudulent and abusive to try to wangle my way in.  Friends or community support groups are also an option, but I feel too ashamed to ask and have to admit that, yes, at my age, I have shitty bones and experience a lot of pain if I have to stand for any period of time – it all sounds so pathetically lame, even to me.  I even tried phoning one of the supermarkets to talk to them about how I can arrange an online delivery as someone with limited mobility, but they are so overwhelmed right now that all I got was a recorded message before the inevitable cut-off.

Does anyone have any answers to this?  It’s screamingly obvious that it’s a real problem for everyone, not just myself, and I simply can’t imagine this going on for the next few months.  The only positive step I have managed to make with this today is to bite the bullet and order a ‘shooting stick chair’ – a portable, telescopic contraption which unfolds into a rather precarious-looking seat, so the next time I have to hit the shops at least I can sit down for however long it takes. This is my best and only idea; it’s not the stuff of problem-solving legend but right now, it’s all I have.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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