The Corner


Market Report

A direction sign on the floor at a Vons grocery store in Pasadena, Calif., June 10, 2020. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

The self-serve olive bar is back at my supermarket. The one-way signs have been removed from the aisles. The cashiers are no longer required to clean the belt between customers. After a year of so much loss and misery, little restorations mean a lot.

Masks will be the last thing to go, but we’re getting there. Two-thirds of residents in my upstate New York town are vaxxed (I’m one of them) and at least half the people in my county.

For the annals of the minor annoyances of corona times, I submit the Problem of the Plastic Produce Bag. In a cold fall and winter, with the dryness of outdoor air and indoor heat, it is basically impossible to open such bags without a moistened fingertip. Not only were we not touching our faces, but we wouldn’t have dreamed of licking our fingers. So you’d stand there struggling, scrunching the “open here” (yeah, right) end of the blasted bag for what seemed like the better part of a morning, sharing a masked laugh with another customer doing the same thing at the proper social distance on the other side of the oranges and grapefruits.

At one point, I discovered a solution to this tiny problem. The market puts out containers of pineapple in a barrel of crushed ice. Around the rim of the barrel, I could touch a bit of ice — itself socially distanced from the pineapple — and presto, my fingers gained just enough moisture to easily open the bags. Only once did I encounter another shopper doing the same, that lady having become desperate with plastic-produce-bag rage. Partners in crime and ingenuity, we assured each other we weren’t harming anyone or even ourselves with this furtive ice-touching.

In the produce aisle yesterday, I resumed what, pre-COVID, I never knew was a (minuscule) luxury of normal life: Reader, I licked my finger under my mask.

On the reinstated olive bar, a sign asks customers to don the single-use plastic gloves provided before picking up the long-handled spoons. Casual observation suggests that compliance is not high — though I would say common sense is.


The Latest