I write this as a plea. Our Prime Minister tells us to stop panic buying, there’s enough for all, stock up in case you need to self-isolate for 14 days, but leave some for others. Please.
Mr Johnson, I would like to tell you that if the vulture-picked supermarket shelves in my community are anything to go by, few are listening.
Every day. Getting worse.
Everyone over 70 now needs to self-isolate for 12 weeks. Teams of volunteers are setting up to help those who are most vulnerable with their shopping, I hear. That’s great.
But I wonder what I am to do. I am a carer for my youngest, adult child who is on the autistic spectrum with social anxiety. Social isolation is not a new thing for our family. We live with it and find ways to deal with it. Now we have to find new ways, because my mother, who is vulnerable and also lives with us, is self-isolating.
This means I will also do her food shopping and thank goodness I can, but how can I when there’s nothing left on the shelves? Aware that supermarket staff are on the frontline and no doubt bombarded with complaints, I tried, nevertheless, to ask for advice.
Here’s my conversation from yesterday afternoon at a local supermarket:
Me, at checkout: ‘Sorry to ask, I don’t want to hold you up (the man in line behind me already sighing…) but do you have any advice for me, as a carer, of the best time to shop, as your shelves are bare?
Checkout Guy: ‘Oh…are they? Well, we don’t have any sanitizer or hand soap…’
‘Yes…I know that…but I’m talking about fresh meat, tinned food, toilet paper, pasta, bread…’
‘Well the shelves are stocked overnight…I can’t tell you what gets put out as I don’t do the shelves…it’s just what’s there…’
‘Yes…I understand that, but I’m trying to find out when I should do my shopping, as clearly there’s a time when everything gets cleaned out.’
‘Well, they come in early and buy everything…’
‘How early…like first thing, they queue up before you open?’
‘Can’t you put a limit on things when that happens?’
‘You’ll have to talk to my team leader,’ he sighed, clearly fed up with me. ‘She’s over there…’ He pointed to a checkout lady busy with her customer.
The man behind me glared as I walked over to said team leader.
I explained my dilemma.
‘Nothing we can do…’ she said. ‘Head office haven’t told us to limit anything…’
‘So what do I do? Online shopping is a mess…’
‘Well that’s probably going to end anyway…sorry, it’s pot luck. Sorry…’
This isn’t what their circular email said, reassuring their customers they were doing all they could to make sure everyone had enough. The panic buyers put paid to that. Not only that, they are risking exposure by herding together as they wait for the doors to open.
And what of those who still have to work? My eldest son called in to his local supermarket for his usual shop on the way home from work yesterday. Shelves stripped bare.
He went home with a bottle of rum.
My middle son can’t get much at all with the hours he works. As part of a houseshare, he doesn’t have room for hoarding even if he wanted to (he doesn’t).
He’s getting by with cider and tinned peaches. I told him, keep the peaches in the fridge; they’re nice chilled.
Seriously…I’m worried for them. For us.
Still, today brings a glimmer of hope as supermarkets announce item limits. About time, because appealing to common sense and consideration towards others hasn’t worked.
Kindness does exist, though. If we don’t keep it close, we’ll sink.
My husband and I recently stayed at a hotel (necessity, not holiday). The hotel was pretty empty, but the staff there remained helpful and friendly, despite their obvious fears for their very livelihoods.
Back home, my husband emailed the manager to thank him for his help and concern (we needed an extra night). The manager replied that on a morning rapidly sinking into chaos, my husband’s email gave him hope.
Just a little kindness. That’s all.
But I am still unsure as supermarkets have set up dedicated early morning slots before 9 am for ‘the elderly’ to shop. How can they shop when they are self-isolating at home?
What do I do, as my family’s carer? Will I be allowed to use that slot? Will they believe me when I turn up, or think I’m trying it on? Do I need proof? Or will anybody really be enforcing this? I’ve researched online, tried calling, but can’t get through. Has this not been addressed?
Think of me tomorrow morning when I hit the shops at 8am.
And here’s the other thing: I need to keep myself healthy. Husband too. This I fear the most: who will look after us if we both get ill? Who will do our shopping? Online shopping isn’t a good option right now: the nearest slot is at least 2 weeks away and I have no assurance that my order would be delivered.
My head spins even as think of it, trying to make some sense through the writing of it. A dilemma to which I would love a solution without feeling that everytime I leave my house, I’m doing battle.
We’re in this together, world over.
We’ve got enough supplies to tide us over.
But we all know that nothing lasts forever.
Let’s hope this means coronovirus too.