Date Night At The Grocery Store During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Love In The Grocery Store

Last weekend a couple came through my grocery line that looked exhausted and worn thin. They weren’t really looking at each other or talking with any consistency. When they did speak, I could hear a slight disdain in their voices like they had an argument in the car on the way to the store. I’ve seen many different types of relationships go through my line in the short time I’ve worked as a cashier – new, old, broken, solid, fragile, mending,  etc – but this was a new and mysterious stage to witness in a strange and apprehensive time. I immediately envisioned millions of couples going through a similar transformative period in their relationship. Like these two, people are being put to the test by forces far beyond their control. We all are. But the most intimate relationships have a more complicated road to navigate, because maybe, it wasn’t meant to be and the whole thing was built on cheap, half-assed ideas of what a good relationship could and should be?

While I punched in sku codes for numerous produce items and scanned fancy seltzer waters I tried my best to force them out of the silence by asking, “So, how is your quarantine going?” They both paused and looked at each other. The woman shrugged and said, “It’s…you know, alright.” He remained silent. Now, I knew things weren’t going well. I continued to push, “Have you started any new hobbies?” They both half-chuckled and she replied, “Not really. But I guess this is date night now.”


I didn’t expect much more conversation out of those, let alone a piercing view into their struggles. I couldn’t help but laugh and they followed suit. Some of the tension left the checkout line in that moment and I suggested that we should start selling cocktails at the store for customers to enjoy during romantic strolls down the pasta aisle. The banter helped alleviate all our anxieties for a moment. As they strolled away with their cart full of groceries, I couldn’t help but wonder what their conversation would be on the way home. Would the animosity still be there or did the “Date Night” at the grocery store give them enough time out of the house relax a little.

The foolhardy optimist in me wants to believe that all they needed was a discussion on what cut of meat to buy for dinner to remind them of love, but in all reality, I was probably caught in the middle of the unveiling of serious issues. Perhaps, they were destined to fight the whole way home. I’ll never know but it made me wonder if we can survive our quarantine time as a people, psychologically and emotionally.

It’s not every day that we are forced to face the unpleasant messiness of our decisions. Maybe the couple in this story started dating because they had a close group of friends, and now, they don’t have others to lean on in social situations. They can’t go out for beers and bullshit with their pals and pretend everything is fine. Instead, they are left with only each other and the internet in that cramped apartment that she hates, and he doesn’t clean up and she picks her nails. He doesn’t really pay attention to her and now it is glaringly obvious. And she doesn’t particularly care about him either. But there is nowhere to go besides the grocery store to spice up the night.

Apocalypse Hand

I could’ve been way off on my “assessment” of their relationship. But it doesn’t change the fact that many couples will not make it out of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Love will not last for everyone. Some will become stronger, better partners. Friends and neighbors will grow closer. The tiny protein that is bringing the world to its knees can also bring us together if we want it to.

A young boy ran ahead of his parents through my checkout line. He started to unfold the bags and prepare for the groceries to come down the conveyor belt. I wasn’t finished ringing up the customer ahead of them, so, the little guy had to wait. My first thought was the parents need to control the kid especially since everyone involved is trying to practice social distancing. That infuriated me a little bit. I understand taking your kids out of the house because they are going crazy but it’s probably not a great idea to let them run around spreading germs. His parents bickered as I asked them my standard cashier questions. I listened closely as I handed a receipt the customer in front of me.


These two were fighting about the petty things that wear down a relationship. “Well, you should get that kind of butter if you like it.” The man said in a passive aggressive tone.

“I don’t want the butter.”

“You’re going to need it for that bread you bought. You are the only one that will eat that shit. Get the butter.” He turned to me, not waiting for her response and asked, “Excuse me, sir, does she have time to go get a butter?”

“Sure.” I replied.

She sighed and said, “OK. I’ll get the butter.”

I’m no expert but her taste in bread and butter wasn’t the problem. Maybe it was some deep seeded resentment about his failings as a husband? Or maybe he just knew that she would want that damn butter. Either way, he shelved her emotions right in front of me. And that can’t be good. People have bad nights and it could be that I caught them in a bad moment. But how many shitty nights can happen before the shaky foundations that people like this couple built their relationships on crumble? There will be large spike in children – like that little boy waiting to bag groceries – who end up spending Christmas with Mommy and Thanksgiving with Daddy?

I know I have added many hypothetical questions into the real-life scenarios of my post, but I think we should be concerned about the breakdown of others to avoid it in our own lives. I see shit like this all the time. It was there to be observed before the virus and I am sure it will be after we flatten the curve. It’s during these low points in our lives that we can examine, reflect and grow. Ultimately, we can come out the other side better people, who don’t give a damn about butter and just enjoy our significant other’s company on date night at the grocery store.

3 thoughts on “Date Night At The Grocery Store During The Coronavirus Pandemic

  1. I am really loving your writings.

    As far as the couples you observed, look for them in the future. And continue the conversation. That not only reenforces that others do care, but may open lines of communications between them that were lost or never opened.

    When this shit is over, I would love to meet you around the fire so we can talk.

    Showing my age, but 38 years in customer service here.

    Washington State Grocer 2020

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