Over the course of the Covid-19 lockdowns and closures of non-essential businesses, we had accumulated a short shopping list of items that weren’t available online, or for which some degree of browsing or comparison shopping was required.
When the province announced the first phase of reopening of non-essential stores, part of me yelled, “Start the car!” like in those legendary IKEA commercials, but the reasonable part of me took a deep breath and said, “Slow down… not just yet”.
At that point, my next vaccination was still a couple of weeks away and the variants to the virus still presented enough unknown risk for me to want to choose my errands carefully. The last thing I wanted to do was to be in the stores with hordes of other shoppers, making a June shopping trip feel like Black Friday or Boxing Day.
With the expansion of the vaccination program and the daily improvement in new case numbers, I knew that the appropriate thing to do was to wait.
But my neck was saying otherwise as I needed a new pillow in the worst possible way. The extra firm pillow I was using was well past its expiry date. In fact, it was probably past its useful life a couple of months after Covid-19 started, so it was no surprise to me to be regularly waking up with a kinked neck.
Not to boast or anything, but given that medium-sized hats are too small to fit my Charlie Brown round head, I often wonder if I go through pillows so quickly because of the sheer magnitude and associated weight of this globe of a skull.
Another theory, presented by a salesperson at a mattress store, was that foam pillows do eventually break down over time through body heat and sweat. I accept that possibility too, but it seems that I go through pillows the way other people go through tissues.
After I received my second vaccination and the side effects subsided, I knew that enough time had passed that I wouldn’t be contending with crowds of shoppers or standing for prolonged periods (which I really couldn’t do, due to the recent garden weeding sessions that left my legs stiff as a board). Plus as a recent retiree, I could go early on a weekday, as opposed to the weekend, to further lessen any potential exposure.
Early one Friday, I decided that it was time.
I had planned a super-efficient trip to the city, stopping only to pick up specific items that had been sitting on a list for weeks or months, complete with notes of where I could stop should Mother Nature call along the way. Browsing aimlessly was not on the agenda.
Bed Bath and Beyond (BB&B) was my first stop, in the hope of finding a new pillow to support my beach ball sized cranium. In preparation for this stop, I re-subscribed with my new email address to start the flood of BB&B coupons. Success! Within minutes I downloaded a coupon for “$15 off a $50 purchase”.
Upon the approach to the BB&B store I was swept away by that unmistakable familiar scent of … is it scented candles or room air fresheners?… even through my mask. It’s that scent that seems to permeate every store and by extension, every product purchased there. Either way, it brought back a memory of our old “normal”.
Then the automatic door slid open and I entered the store.
I felt transported to a different time and place. After 16 months of pandemic shopping, with specific purpose, for specific items, as quickly and efficiently as possible, at a limited number of stores, I immediately felt the strong contrast.
It was a strange feeling of “shopping freedom”. It was as if I had forgotten what it was like to wander through a store.
And if you’ve ever been in a BB&B store, you know just how much stuff there is to overcharge the senses. Initially, it was a little overwhelming for the senses with all of the colourful products jumping out at me (metaphorically speaking, of course) as if to say “look at me!”
It was a little off-balancing to have the option to browse again. Who knew the extent to which we took this simple pleasure for granted before the pandemic.
Because it wasn’t too busy, I decided to take a moment to acclimatize myself, despite getting asked twice if I needed help finding something.
When I made my way to the pillow section, I was able to find something I hadn’t seen before, an Australian wool pillow. When I squished the pillow, it seemed quite firm and offered just the right resistance. Maybe this was the support I needed. And at $51.99, it was fate. I was able to use my coupon and save a few bucks for what basically amounts to an experiment.
Once that errand was completed, it was on to the next stops on my list, enjoying a similar sense of freedom and the joy of being able to ask questions and chat with store clerks (outside of my circle of essential stores) all over again.
It was such a familiar sensation but it seemed so long ago. It was almost as if I had never shopped like this before. It was weird but thrilling at the same time. I had hoped that this was a sign of things to come.
That night, as I rested my head on my new pillow, I was reassured that this was the neck support I had been missing for several months. I think we are on to something with this Australian wool pillow.
After a few seconds, through the pillow, I started picking up on the aroma of the BB&B store, even though the pillow had left the store twelve hours earlier.
I giggled to myself, “Some things never change”, and felt a renewed sense of optimism that someday we will eventually get back to a familiar sense of “normal.”
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