Pat Drummond :: life & technology

May 08, 2020

Pandemic Diary #stayhome #staysafe


I'm lucky to live in a neighbourhood where you'll see more people walking than driving. Even with the Pandemic stay-home directives, lots of people were out walking, running and biking, in March and April. I noticed that many didn't know the rule walk on the left (facing traffic). Didn't everyone learn that when they were young? People walk on the right side of sidewalks, and bicycles ride on the right too, so I understand the confusion. Still, following this simple rule would make walking less stressful.

Buying Groceries:

Our local grocer is part of the Loblaws chain, which offers online ordering and no-contact curbside pickup. After you register an account (PC Optimum account if you already have one) just log in (make sure your browser allows "cookies") so an hour of filling an online cart isn't lost!  If you select a pickup time, it won't be saved until you complete the order (we learned this the hard way). If you're using a small screen, the date-time grid for pickup time is awkward and you'll have to scroll down as well as across. Since we have to wait a week or two for an available time slot depending on demand and staffing levels, we now start a new order right after pickup.

The website shows photos and details of everything they sell, but their search tool sucks. Searching for "cooking onions" didn't find it - but "onions" did. Just look by category if the search finds nothing at all. Brand name search sometimes finds things you can't find any other way. After you check out you will receive an email notification.  You can modify your order up until the date stated, making it easier to order in advance, since you can add items within a few days of your pickup time.

On pickup day, be patient. You'll receive a notification (email, text or phone) when your order is ready for pickup, with details about substitutions. (If you notice something odd like carrots, bread and milk dropped from the order without any substitutions, you have to phone the store.) Drive to the pickup area at the store, open your trunk, call the store to tell them you're there, then wait. Be sure they let you close the trunk yourself - one less surface to clean!

Health officials don't consider food a source of infection, but disinfecting boxes and cans may be a good idea if you have seniors or people with health issues in your home (we have both). In all cases, wash your hands before and after handling groceries and disinfect door and car handles. You may disinfect cans, bottles and boxes, but simply storing for several days should deactivate any viruses. Wash fruit and vegetables in running cold water and let air dry. Dilute bleach in a spray bottle (1 teaspoon per cup of water) is the cheapest method for disinfecting - use gloves to protect your skin. Disposable gloves should be turned inside out and placed in a garbage bag, never loose!  Now wash your hands again.

2022 May update: We quit the disinfecting procedures long ago, but still wash fresh food.

Buying Wine:

You have to hand it to the LCBO - Ontario's idea of a wine store). They have made very few changes due to pandemic. In fact, their home delivery ended - another government monopoly, Canada Post, couldn't figure out how to check ID at the door safely. (I found a private winery that could  deliver to my door.) LCBO.COM still shows delivery as an order option, just to trick people who think that means to their home, not a distant drug store. You can view "in store" availability at your local store but can't order or pay online. Recently LCBO.COM has added "Same-day pickup" but only at a few store within an hour drive of my home. (Haven't tried it.) You can also order online for "pickup" at a local store. Here's how it works: you create an order, pay, then wait three weeks. You get notification that it is ready for pickup, then you drive to the LCBO, enter the store, search for an employee to find your order and bring it to a desk or cash (yes really), where you show ID and sign a paper confirming you received the order. Then you are handed an 8x11" paper receipt. So the second time I ordered, I decided to avoid this pantomime and beg for better service. I phoned to ask if someone could bring the order out to my car - the manager argued they were too busy but I persisted and he finally agreed! Should I have to beg? Even on a good day, I can barely lift 12 bottles of wine. I told him I've be there in 15 minutes, phoned again from the parking lot, opened the trunk, got back in, and the boxes and receipt were dropped in the trunk. No signature was requested this time, so maybe they are changing procedures.  I felt a bit guilty (not really) as 6 people watched in the rain in a 2-metre marked line to get their hands sprayed before entering the store. No one wearing face masks yet. You can see obvious problems, right? Pickup orders have doubled and stores have lineups to get in, yet stores are only open from 11 to 6 and they haven't hired any extra staff for curbside delivery or home delivery. It hasn't hurt me to quit drinking for a few weeks, but I could really use a stress-buster right about now. A couple of friends in B.C. offer to ship me a box of wine and I nearly took them up on it. Maybe it's easier to buy pot - the privately owned stores would be out of business if they didn't offer curbside delivery. Sadly, government monopolies don't have to change to stay in business.

Stay home:
OK, full disclosure - we are a retired couple and already spend a lot of time at home and being around each other. But, after 50 years of marriage, I'm getting stressed. The WHO declared the Pandemic a few days before out 50th anniversary so we had a celebration for two. My normal outings for aquafit and yoga classes ended in mid-March, so I took to walks alone around the neighbourhood. My yoga teacher of many years, bless her heart, set up a Zoom account with 5 classes a week. It's nice to "see" everyone, but the casual conversation is missing.

Zoom & Skype:  Can you hear me?

I've been online for nearly 30 years so was surprised when Skype (for Windows) went silent. Using Skype chat, we tried everything we could think of, but still no sound at either end. (Skype: select the 3-dot menu icon > Settings > Audio-Video to check options)  Finally I sent a Zoom invitation and we were gabbing in no time. A week later on joining a ZOOM room, my bluetooth earphones connected but without sound! I changed the audio setting to system default to hear again. (ZOOM: select the microphone icon for audio options.)  Another time, I had to connect the bluetooth earphones manually, which takes time just to find where you do that! (Windows: search for Sound)   When the earphone battery dies, at least you switch to the speaker. I expect bluetooth devices to simply connect the instant I turn them on, but often it doesn't work.

2002 May update: I discovered that if my phone was nearby it connected to the earphones immediately.  The only way I could connect them to my laptop was to turn my phone's bluetooth off!