I went shopping today. Who ever thought that would be an interesting statement?
Since the beginning of lockdown I’ve been to the supermarket once a week, and I have been to the garden centre and DIY stores twice. I’ve also been to a Boots a couple of times for medication. I haven’t been ‘proper’ shopping at all. Until today, for the first time in 115 days, when I thought that, as I was going to Boots again, I would also pop to a couple of other shops at the same time.
I needed to get some new trainer socks and rather than order them online I thought I’d try M&S, and at the same time test out my masks before they become mandatory in shops.
First stop was Boots, where I already knew what to expect as I’ve been recently. They have perspex screens up at the cash desks and a one way system round the store (this is a small store not a large one with endless cosmetic counters). Today however, despite clear signs, queuing to pay was a little fraught with people just queuing down an aisle instead of following the signs. As soon as I put on my mask my glasses steamed up, making it impossible for me to see where I was going. I popped my glasses on my head but this meant I couldn’t read anything (including social distancing signs!). At the pharmacy counter I wasn’t sure they’d be able to hear or understand me through my mask but it was fine.
As soon as I was outside I removed my mask. I was so hot I was relieved to take it off. Hot flushes and masks do not go well together.
I have been shopping in my local M&S foodhall throughout the lockdown, without a mask. They ask if you would like a trolley or a basket and wipe it for you, and you follow the arrows. Today I went to the main entrance and I wasn’t allowed in without using hand sanitiser first. The lady in front of me was wearing gloves but they wouldn’t let her in until she also used the hand sanitiser. By the time I was at the top of the stairs I was really hot again, but I was getting used to actually wearing the mask. M&S wasn’t busy at all, more plastic screens at the checkouts, no changing rooms but I risked buying a dress (which I now have to take back tomorrow…).
When I left the store through a different, side, exit there was no hand sanitiser, no one making anyone use it and no signs indicating whether it was supposed to be an entrance or an exit.
From there I went to Next, clearly marked entrance and exits and more hand sanitiser, but no one enforcing the use of it. Again, there was hardly anyone in there, so it was easy to socially distance.
There were lots of people in the town centre itself, I would say almost as many as a usual week day during term time. I went to FatFace next, no hand sanitiser and no one at the door counting people in, but there wasn’t really any need as there was hardly anyone in there again.
At White Stuff I was met at the door and there was optional hand sanitiser, and for the first time on my shopping trip the staff were wearing masks.
My final stop was our local independent department store, they had someone welcoming you at the main door (one entrance and one exit) and as I paused to wait for him to say it was ok for me to go in another (older) woman just barged in front of me, so I guess some people still haven’t quite got the idea.
I wore my mask in all the shops I went into today and was melting by the time I came out of them; I had to wear my glasses on my head every time I put my mask on because they steamed up, but I couldn’t see with out them. I felt relaxed about shopping and being among people, but then I haven’t really felt anxious about shopping in supermarkets since this began.
I totally understand why we are being asked to wear masks (although I don’t understand why I haven’t been made to wear one for the past 115 days) and I will happily wear a mask to go shopping if that’s what’s required, but I just don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to go shopping as a leisure activity again any time soon.