Ode to curbside grocery pick-up

Photo courtesy of Jill Beavins. 

EMMA BEAVINS | OPINION COLUMNIST | ebeavins@butler.edu

Oh, dear curbside grocery pick-up, 

You’ve got me wrapped up again. As the food slowly disappears from my refrigerator, I can’t help but dream of our meeting tonight at 7 p.m. What a shame that I must wait all day before your plastic bags once again fill the trunk of my mom’s Jeep Grand Cherokee. 

I can see it now: the Kroger employee tightens his surgical mask and work gloves. I crack my window an inch so I can almost hear what he’s saying to me about out-of-stock items and the sometimes-on-par-sometimes-not substitutions he haphazardly decided on. 

The 17-year-old who goes to high school with my younger sister tries to have a conversation with me as he’s loading the trunk. “What do you think of the schools closing?” he yells from behind me. 

Light awkward conversation ensues and panic rises in my chest as our too-long interaction angers impatient customers waiting in the spots alongside me and in the line that is beginning to wrap around the building. 

Oh, dear curbside grocery pick-up,

You’re so busy these days. What once was a convenient, quick meeting has turned into a time-consuming endeavor. Where once I knew I would be satisfied with my order, there are now frequent mismatches between my cart and my receipt — you forgot the lemons, JIF creamy peanut butter was out of stock, the pretzels were home style instead of original. I know these inconveniences are a product of your overburdened workload, so really, I’m not being ungrateful. Your 19-year-old manager is doing the best they can to manage contactless grocery shopping in a global pandemic. I hope they get at least a $0.50 hourly raise. 

I’m not trying to be ungrateful, but last Saturday really was not your best moment. The appointed hour was between 3 and 4 p.m. when I dutifully stopped writing my essay to saunter across town for our rendezvous. 

Little did I know your small section of the parking lot between the drug store drive-through and the unloading dock would be a war zone. 

When I called to signal my arrival, your manager was curt and preoccupied. After 20 minutes of waiting, the 17-year-old came to my window and asked, “Burton?” No, I smiled apologetically, it’s Beavins. 

Alas, my turn was not to come for another 15 minutes. 

When my turn finally arrived, I politely declined the employee’s obligatory reading of the list of substitutions — other cars were lining up behind me in a disorganized and tense fashion. It was like the McDonald’s double drive-through line coalescing into one unit: which car will be the aggressor? I envisioned fights and bumper taps in the near future if I didn’t speed up the interaction. 

Finally, bounty obtained, I drove home, feeling blessed by the grocery gods. After a few hours of leaving the items to decontaminate, I asked my sister to carry the bags inside. When she complained the bags were heavy, I dismissed her whining complaints. 

As my mom pulled out each item one by one — armed with lavender-scented Clorox wipes and winter gloves — we realized the grave mistake. Instead of receiving eight Gala apples, we received eight bags of eight Gala apples. 64 Gala apples, a few jars of peanut butter and a salad mix later, we stared sullenly at our once-a-week grocery haul. 

Oh, dear curbside grocery pick-up,

Tonight is the night. Your convenient and contactless services have a chance to redeem themselves. I pray that the almond milk coffee creamer is back in stock and the dog food, too. Please remember the essentials, like avocado and the cinnamon and sugar Pretzel Thins. These are hard times. We’re all doing the best we can to make it through. 

When all is said and done, I know I will continue to ring your line and occupy your roomy spaces. In-store Kroger shoppers seem to not have heard the governmental pleas for the public to wear masks and maintain social distance. The aisles are as packed and germy as ever. So, dear curbside grocery pick-up, it looks like it’s just you and me. You’re really the only option I have left. 

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