It was early Saturday morning and I woke up with an excitement usually reserved for an outing with friends or a party in my honor. Today was grocery delivery day. I felt like the folks in the Music Man when the “Wells Fargo wagon is a-comin” or visits to my Grandma Sadie’s house when I heard the Good Humor Truck approaching. I’ve never before been such a fan of groceries, except for basic survival, but this is far different. This is food shopping during the pandemic. This is the adventure known as Instacart. Since I no longer want to venture into actual stores to do my shopping because I’m scared of veering within six feet of people, I’ve opted instead to have my groceries delivered. This, and the fact that the last time I went shopping a man cursed me out for asking him to keep his distance.
The excitement factor is that, unlike when you do your own shopping in the brick and mortar stores, you’re never quite sure what items will ultimately be delivered to your door. Often, they’re brands you’ve never seen on any store shelves before, ever. As many of you likely know by now, the online order experience is like a race to the finish line when a complete stranger is riding your horse. You place your order and anxiously await the delivery date, which could be hours or weeks away. Up to the final hour before your shopper begins filling your order, you still have the option to add items to your list. I confess, I obsess. Do I really need that Paul Newman thin crust pizza with uncured pepperoni? Of course, I do. Unless it’s replaced like the last time with a product that clearly says pizza on the package but is actually a frozen, doughy white roll with some spaghetti sauce and cheese flakes plopped on top.
An hour or so before your delivery time, you get a text saying that your order is about to be filled, your needs addressed. Then you wait, with a fully charged phone at your side. The next text arrives and it’s from your shopper. Oh no. The Lactaid cottage cheese you ordered is out of stock. Can he replace it with another lactose laden brand? NO! The next text informs me that there’s no frozen broccoli. He sends a photo of frozen pearl onions as an alternate. My chicken breasts are already gone. There’s no brownie mix of any description. No walnuts, no bananas, no lettuce this week. Really?
Over half the items I’ve ordered are canceled or replaced. Despite this, when the final series of texts arrive congratulating me for a completed order and alerting me to the delivery person’s imminent arrival at my building, I’m excited to don my mask and race downstairs to retrieve my goodies. I’m giddy as I disinfect the items (possibly due to the Lysol fumes), dry them and put them away. I’ll be trying many new foods this week, by default. Ah well, it’s my excitement for the day, or to be honest, for the week. And, borrowing a phrase from Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Except that it probably won’t be the chocolate you ordered.
Mona Finston is a partner at MoJJo Collaborative Communications, a virtual PR firm in NYC. She is currently working on a book of essays about her mother and a screenplay about the fantasies of an older woman.