It’s a sunny Saturday morning. Another week in lockdown has almost passed. Since the emergency situation was announced, I have lost track of the days. There is only yesterday, today and tomorrow. But I know it is Saturday as I do my shopping then.
I quickly wash up, grab my shopping trolley and armed with gloves and a mask, I am heading to the nearest supermarket. Tesco.
It is only a 10-minute walk from my home, but it took me only 60 seconds to realize one unpleasant truth. Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives. We all feel very passionate about this Boris Johnson speech until the days become longer and the sun starts shining a little bit brighter. Then, the urge to ignore the pandemic and forget about social distancing slowly takes over the feeling of patriotism.
For a country with more than 26,000 deaths you would expect England to look more like a ghost town. Contrary to my apocalyptic expectations, there are more people jogging and walking their dogs in Colchester than any other time before the whole COVID-19 situation escalated. Families with children are loving every ray of sunshine, teenagers in groups are loudly enjoying their company outside the local shop.
And I have to admit it, I never knew there were so many dogs in my neighbourhood until now. I guess we needed a worldwide killing virus to become gym addicts, desperately needing four walks a day and dog lovers with a burning desire to take the pets out every ten minutes.
But that’s another story.
I finally get to Tesco and am patiently waiting for my turn to do my shopping. It is needless to say that those queuing outside the supermarket should be in a safe distance of 2 metres apart. In theory, it sounds doable. In practise, I can feel the person behind me staying in a much closer distance, seemingly ignoring the floor stickers. As if getting quicker to the Tesco entrance is a valid enough reason to ignore the social distancing rules.
When it is finally my turn to go inside, another thing strikes me. Tesco is offering disinfectant and wipes, encouraging its customers to clean their shopping trolleys before going inside. The very same trolleys everyone touched, leaned on, and pulled with bare hands while waiting in the queue five minutes ago. A paradox other supermarkets, such as Aldi, also haven’t thought about.
Luckily, I have my gloves on, so I don’t have to wipe my trolley.
Tesco is surprisingly empty for a Saturday. I breathe a sigh of relief, encouraged that the deserted supermarket will give me a better social distancing experience.
Five seconds later my expectations are crashed. I find myself in the milk sector, with people passing by me, overtaking with their trolleys and clearly ignoring the two-metre rule by approaching me closely to pick up their products.
As if patiently waiting in a safe distance behind the person in front of you to get your pint of milk is a task impossible to complete.
I finally get my oat sweetened milk and head to the next sector. Cheese & Yoghurt. I am waiting behind a customer. I see that respecting his safety while keeping six feet apart is definitely annoying the man behind me. He decides he is not waiting anymore for the corridor to be emptied out and jumps the queue me and the man before me have formed.
What is the point of lining up in front of a supermarket just to be crammed cheek to jowl later on inside?
People are walking in a completely different direction than the one the arrows on the floor show them, proudly ignoring the one-way aisle system Tesco introduced to ensure shoppers’ safety while browsing for products. And that is the very same rule everyone was reminded of before entering the store.
It seems like some of us are taking the emergency situation more lightly than they should.
I let my irritation wear off and continue with my shopping.
At least there is no one panic buying toilet paper. Only pasta and canned beans. This makes my sight jump quickly from the canned tomatoes to the only type of beans left on shelves. Even in a pandemic no one wants the chilli beans. Apart from me.
I have everything I need now and queue up to go to the checkout. It doesn’t take long before a member of staff tells me to head to cashier number six.
Tesco has placed screens around the tills to protect its staff from the spread of the virus. The cashier is using hand sanitiser before scanning my groceries and this immediately gets me thinking: why is she cleaning her hands with disinfecting gel instead of just wearing gloves and a mask? Surely, Tesco could find a better way to minimise the health risks for both the employees on the frontline of the coronavirus and all the reasonable shoppers out there.
And surely, we can all make extra effort to take the dangerous circumstances more seriously.
I quickly pack my groceries and head towards the exit. While leaving the store, a Tesco worker is directing another shopper into the store. Apparently the “one in, one out” and “two meters apart” policies are working well if not inside Tesco, then at least outside.
I am on my way home. And the 10-minute walk makes my head teem with questions again. What is the point of having a national lockdown if people will lack the self-discipline to keep a safe distance and put if not others’, then their own safety first? What’s the point of Britons losing their jobs just because some of us cannot stay at home and protect the most vulnerable members of our society?
Maybe my next shopping experience will give me more faith in people.