I went grocery shopping today, which, historically, has been an easy task—go from point A to point B, purchase goods, return to point A—but it seems to get more and more difficult as time goes on.
My wife was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroidosis—an autoimmune disease where one’s body attacks its own thyroid gland—within the last year, but she’s likely suffered from it for much longer. Her energy levels, metabolism, mental functions, and more have all been affected as a result, and all the medical professionals she has seen have been unable to help her, sometimes due to an unwillingness to do so, but mostly because there’s not enough that is known about the thyroid gland, the endocrine system, or autoimmune diseases to provide her with any relief. The only thing that she has had control over in treating her symptoms is through her diet—by eliminating any potentially inflammatory foods, she’s seen some positive progress, but, as a result, so much of her life and well being revolve around the food that she eats.
In 2018, it was rare for me to go to the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, Trader Joe’s, Safeway, Target, and Costco all within the same month, but after my wife fell ill, we began to prepare more fresh food at home, which changed the way we shopped. Every place had something different to offer—cheaper pantry staples, organic produce, bulk discounts, or variety—and making short trips several times a month to the different grocery stores became a much more regular occurrence. But once shoppers began panicking in preparation for the coronavirus to bring about the end of humanity, and reports of hoarding and crowded aisles became widespread, I’d become hesitant to venture out as often as I used to. I do not want to run the risk of putting my wife in that kind of danger; with her compromised condition and the lack of understanding the medical community has about her ailment, we began to assess our options.
Trader Joe’s became our mainstay after there were reports of the conditions for workers and customers elsewhere. They were one of the first companies we heard about that was taking active steps to encourage social distancing, limiting items, and only allowing a small number of people into the store. But as time went on, we became aware that these companies could only do so much to protect everyone. It wasn’t long before there were confirmed cases at Trader Joe’s, and, when we looked at the alternatives, it didn’t seem as though there were any clear winners—we were pretty much screwed no matter what we did.
So, instead of worrying about what we couldn’t control, we decided to worry about what we could. Today, when I went to Costco, I went an hour before they were scheduled to open, hoping to be one of the first in line. Armed with some nitrile gloves, a face mask, and my reading glasses to protect my eyes, I braved the wide halls to try to find enough food to sustain us for at least a few weeks. I did mental math while considering my options—trying to figure out if we had enough space in our already-stuffed cabinets for an obscene amount of potatoes or if we could fit a family-size pack of bacon somewhere in the refrigerator—before spending more money on groceries than I ever have before.
Once home, I brought everything inside and set it on the floor. My wife began scrubbing all of the pre-packaged items with soap and water while I segregated myself from her—there’s no telling if my clothes, my mask, or my wallet came into contact with anything that could have been carrying the novel coronavirus—and began to wash and disinfect myself and everything I may have touched. We spent the next three hours working in shifts to wash, dry and sanitize everything that came into our home. There’s still produce drying on the counter, waiting to be tucked away somewhere safe, but we are too tired to worry about it now.
The steps that the world is taking right now—the isolation, the distancing—are to protect people like my wife who may not be able to survive something like COVID-19. I know that there are still some people out in the world who view the coronavirus as a hoax, but seeing so many people rally together to aid the most vulnerable in our society warms my heart. As this illness spreads and its dangers are becoming more realized, there is so much of our lives that have been disrupted, but when I look at my wife, I will gladly sacrifice the conveniences of our modern life to ensure her safety, and I am so glad that others are, too.