When the COVID-19 coronavirus struck, along with social distancing and stay-at-home orders, I thought, "No sweat! I'll just buy groceries during 'senior hours' early in the morning."
"Don't do it!" screeched friends, who tried it and said the stores were jammed.
To avoid the crush, I took on the learning curve of online shopping and -- equally daunting -- figuring out how to "safely" handle groceries once they'd been shopped.
This has not been easy. So many choices! So much contradictory advice!
The first question to tackle: Pickup or delivery?
I started with pickup because the nearest store offered it for free, and I could use my coupons.
Setting up the account was easy. Since I could save the items in my online shopping cart, I work on my list all week and then schedule a pickup.
Big mistake. When I finally checked out on a Friday, the pulldown menu didn't offer Saturday pickup. Or Sunday. Or Monday. And Tuesday didn't even appear.
Turns out, it's possible to throw a few items in the cart, immediately schedule a pickup time, then add more groceries later. That solves one problem. It doesn't solve the "what if they're out of lentils?" problem. Not happy news, since I'd bought everything else for the recipe.
Not to worry, I thought. How about free delivery from Amazon Prime Fresh, which seems to have lentils of every kind? But whoops! Be careful what you click on. You might get the 25-pound bag of non-GMO, 100% nonirradiated, certified kosher lentils ($49.99) that goes in the regular Amazon cart. Or the French Organic Whole Foods lentils ($6.99) that go in the Whole Foods cart. And neither will count toward the $35 free-shipping minimum for the $1.69 lentils in the Amazon Fresh cart.
I never saw a "free" I didn't like, so I started wine shopping, which easily got the order up to the minimum. But whoops! I would have to sign for it. So much for social distancing.
Still, desperate times call for desperate measures. I made a sign letting the driver know I was social distancing and hung my driver's license on the door in a sandwich bag. He punched something in his phone and left the wine. My small contribution to mutual safety.
I felt blissfully clever until a friend sent a video from a Michigan doctor named Jeffrey VanWingen, whose mission is to demonstrate the proper unpacking of groceries in the time of corona. He relies on sterile surgery techniques and urges us to remember that the virus can stay aerosolized for three hours, linger on cardboard for a day and on plastic or metal for three days.
So, he says, leave what you can in the garage for a while, and if you can't wait or it's perishable, take it inside and remove sealed inner bags or disinfect outer plastic wraps. Then scrub fruits and vegetables with soap and water, as if they were your hands, and put it all on disinfected counters.
Just as my head was spinning, he suggested -- terrifying to any parent -- that we picture the coronavirus as glitter covering everything we bought at the grocery.
Motivated by thoughts of flying glitter, I did him one better by pitching the plastic bags in the garage, transporting housebound groceries in a wheeled cart and leaving cracker and cereal boxes behind, unopened, for a day beside yesterday's mail I was afraid to open.
The next day, I read that an Ohio State University researcher had recommended against leaving food in the garage or another "unsanitary, uncooled location." Either she didn't mean crackers or her children didn't do art projects.
A few days after that, I learned that Dr. VanWingen had corrected his now-viral video to recommend washing fruits and vegetables with water, not soap and water. By the time this is published, I expect there will be more instructions, and I'll have to shift gears again.
All I know is that March 31, I left my shoes outside and sprayed down the soles with Lysol, washed my hands, imagined pink glitter trickling down the drain, wondered how long it would stay there since the drain was metal and, for good measure, pumped liquid soap down the drain with one paper towel covering the pump and the other covering the faucet.
You can't be too careful.
Balancing Act author Pat Snyder is a northwest Columbus resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Find her at PatSnyderOnline.com.