At six a.m. last Saturday, I grabbed my weathered Ikea bag, zipped my coat over my nose and plunged into the fiery, shopping-cart infested heart of Dante’s Inferno.
In other words, I went grocery shopping in the time of corona.
Slovakia is taking a better-safe-than-sorry approach to the coronavirus, closing its borders, schools, churches and public buildings. A majority of the population is working from home and limiting social interaction, while masks have quickly become can’t-leave-the-house-without-them accessories.
Although I found these measures a bit overkill at first, I applaud the Slovak government for its measured urgency, especially considering Italy’s current position. We have just under 100 confirmed cases, a figure that would likely be 35 percent higher had Slovakia not undertaken these measures.
For obvious reasons, grocery stores remain open, and good grief are they scary places to visit during an epidemic.
Surprisingly, I found almost everything I needed during my trip to Kaufland, one of Bratislava’s largest grocery chains. However, the store was already teaming with frantic people shortly after opening, and the real fun began when I joined the endless cue at checkout. This gave me ample time to observe my fellow shoppers and their loot.
A young guy directly in front of me had two overflowing carts, which, among other questionable items, included 12 large bags of sugar. Much like sailors feared scurvy following a severe lack in vitamin C back in the day, I suppose this guy wanted to avoid the many unknown, utterly dire consequences of sugar deficiency.
In stark contrast, the man to my left had a cart load of carrots. If these two gents teamed up, they could probably provide every person in Bratislava with a healthy slice of carrot cake! (totally baking one after this)
By the time I got to unload my groceries at check-out, I was greeted by the shimmering, jovial face of the cashier. Seriously, she was so pleasant, despite having a front-row seat to Armageddon. She joked about the curious habits of panic shoppers, greeted each anxious customer with authentic pleasantries, and went about the back-breaking business of scanning copious amounts of supplies among a chorus of impatient sighs.
I echo the sentiments that health workers, policemen, rescue personnel and government officials deserve our praise for confronting the coronavirus head on to protect the health and well-being of the public. But, let us not forget to also sing praise for the unsung heroes of the coronavirus. Grocery cashiers are putting their health at risk everyday around the globe so we can purchase the supplies we need, or think we need, to sustain ourselves during this epidemic. Their hours are long and their pay substandard, yet most of them manage to keep a level head and assure the rest of us that everything is going to be okay.
So, hats off (but masks definitely still on) to the mighty grocery cashiers of the world. You are warriors!