May 25 – Out of Body Shopping Experience

By Alessia Martino TURIN, ITALY

I have been inside 71 days. I counted them for curiosity, until the 19th of March when I braved myself out the house surroundings. That’s ten weeks and one day.

My sisters and I decided to go to the mall because I needed new clothes and I guess my sister wanted me to do my grocery shopping for once. We masked up, got a cart, and entered. The mall has been re-designed to have a one-way flow, and at its entrance, there is a free hand gel (sanitizer) to use.

The first stop was H&M, a brand I trust in sizes and prices no matter where I am in the world. I was pleased to see they had another hand gel at their entrance plus a kind man (masked like everyone now) greeting customers with a thermometer gunshot to the head, and what I think was a smile. All the staff inside has been super nice and super conscious. Clothes can be tried on, changing rooms are fewer than usual but get cleaned after each person, and un-wanted clothes are put aside to be sanitized before going back on the rack. So, I tried three pieces of clothing and got home with two pairs of socks. The store was empty, half of the merchandise was on sale, and even the new collection was 20% off, 30 with a membership card. It was tempting to buy more, but I got what I needed and still had good savings, also thanks to my sister’s membership. However, I am aware that the brand is just trying to recover losses for the time they had to be closed like other places have to do. Anyway, I got out satisfied and shocked as it all felt like an out of body experience.

Then, on separate shopping trips, my sisters and I went to do groceries. Before entering, I got gloves, which I will dispose of after the shopping task. I had a list but soon felt overwhelmed as there were many people inside. Most kept their distance and moved accordingly, but anyway, inside the mall, everyone needs to have their face covered. What stressed me out were the many choices and some things I never took into consideration when I was making lists for my sister to shop. The list soon became obsolete, and I literally got all I wanted. I see it, and I like it, I take it. I didn’t spend as much as I anticipated in clothes, so I was like, let’s enjoy food. I found the noodles section and got one per type, not the fresh ones, but still pretty happy about them. I got cereals as I found a pack that wasn’t asking for a kidney in return; stocked on pasta and sauces; I also got grapes, even if they are out of season and imported from Chile. I had a small cart as my sisters got the big one, but managed to get almost four bags full. That made check out interesting, as the person behind me had to wait a little longer. Trying to open bags was a challenge of its own, but the sweet lady at the cashier helped me.

I went out in the mall yard, just by the exit and near the parking lot. I sat on a bench with my bags, waiting for the sisters. I soon began people-watching: some people would take their mask out, some would complain about gloves, others would stop to chat. It was nice seeing people generally respecting rules and being mindful. Then I heard my name being spoken, I look, and although it took me a moment, I recognized a friend. I have known her since I was little so, although her appearance was different, I could recognize her voice. We chatted a little, and it was a nice catch-up. Then it was time to go back home.

Fast forward to the next day, and I was having lunch with my mom after like 80 days that I didn’t see her. I was masked in the car and kept distance within the house wall. I did plenty of handwashing and hand gelling. We sat at opposite sides of the table and enjoyed the food. I was slightly stressed, but it was nice. We ate pasta with pesto, buffalo mozzarella, broccoli and ended with homegrown strawberries. I also saw my mom the next day as she was driving my younger sister. We had coffee together outside, and it doesn’t get more Italian than that.

The rest of the week, I took it as a chance to continue to put my life in order, trying to re-connect and not getting eaten alive by mosquitos with the help of my newly bought diffuser. I am still in the house but would need to get out every now and then to not forget about the outside world.