Ordinarily this wouldn’t be anything remarkable, but these are not ordinary times. We have not left the house since March 23rd, so I only knew what to expect from asking others. My goal was Pricesmart (like Costco), El Rey (supermarket), and the bank.
So, my day, (written yesterday, Wednesday) – Traffic was light around town which made driving much easier. I was alone because only women are allowed out on M-W-F. (Men go out on Tu-Th, and nobody goes out on Sa-Sun.) Most people are allowed an hour (with 30 min travel time on either side) but I’m in the over 60 crowd so I’m allowed 2 hours, 11am-1pm.
I started at the bank. It’s open some mornings and other afternoons, and today was an afternoon day so it wouldn’t open until 1pm. I got what I needed from the ATM in the lobby though.
Next was Pricesmart. It’s usually a hectic drive through the most congested parts of the Panamerican highway, but today it was easy. There was parking available and no waiting to get in. There were guards at the door, however, to make sure it was your legal shopping time. The gal in from of me was obviously young, but she had something on her phone that the guards read and let her in. Apparently my gray hair was enough for me. There were only a few things on my list that weren’t available, but there was definitely plenty to stock a house and a kitchen with a variety of meal options.
Everyone was wearing masks. EVERYONE. I saw some people driving in their cars without masks, but everyone outside had on masks, which I believe is a requirement now. We were squirted with hand sanitizer at the Pricesmart door, and everyone was staying the required distance apart. It’s harder to tell if someone is smiling though when you can only see their eyes. Usually smiles and greetings are normal when passing someone in the aisle, but there was a minimal amount of that yesterday. I hope we don’t lose our social closeness along with our physical closeness.
I drove by the supermarket on the way home but there was a line, so I went home so Joel could unload the car and get the frozen stuff put away. Next – the supermarket. There was a line and though it wasn’t long, it was probably a half hour wait to get in. But, I eventually made it to the door, had my temperature taken, was sprayed up and down with alcohol, and well sprayed on my hands. Again, the store was quite well stocked but it still involved a few phone calls home… they don’t have that, do you want to substitute with this? By the time I was done I was really tired, and it was past 1pm.
Since the bank opened at 1pm, I went over there to make a payment by sending money to another bank account. Unfortunately they wouldn’t send money to another bank, and the only open branch for the other bank was downtown, where I didn’t want to go and I was also out of time. So, I called it a day and headed home to collapse in my chair with a big pitcher of iced tea.
I don’t enjoy shopping on a good day, and this was especially stressful not knowing what to expect, and wanting to get it done within my allowed time, and in the daytime heat and with a mask. You also think a lot more about everything you touch. Who touched that shopping cart before you? Do you want to put your purse in the cart or keep it hanging on your shoulder? Are you touching everything, and then touching your glasses so you can see the shopping list on your phone? You touched your credit card and so did the check out lady, and then do you want to put it back in your wallet? What have the stock boys and bag boys touched before they touched your groceries?
There is just no way to be 100% protected, so you do the best you can and use your hand sanitizer a lot. When I got home the clothes went directly into the washing machine, and I went directly to the shower. I disinfected my glasses, phone, and keys also.
I also forgot how hot it is to wear a mask. I have a lot of hospital experience with masks, but that was years ago and not in the hot Panamanian midday sun. If you want to get a taste of coronavirus shortness of breath, wear a mask in a hot parking lot, and make a quick trip across the parking lot pushing a loaded cart. ha! But, I slowed down and got everything in the car without incident.
But, all in all, it was a successful day and the house is stocked for another month.
In general, nobody knows when things will change. There are hints, like a possible peak of the curve in mid May, and Copa Airlines talking about resuming limited flights on June 1st. But for now, this is life as we know it.
The wildlife is totally oblivious to the recent changes though, except maybe they are enjoying the extra quiet. This dove is sitting on a nest in our orange tree, probably good spot because we are careful not to disturb her, and there is a pan of fresh water out every day for her and all the birds.
I’m very thankful that we have everything we need, and are happy indefinitely at home. It’s getting harder and harder for other people though, especially those who have lost their income and government help is not enough and too slow in coming. Hopefully we can all help a bit wherever we can so we can all get through this and come out OK.