Shopping, a short story written by Michal Reibenbach at
Richard Burlton



written by: Michal Reibenbach


15.03. 2020 – One week into the Pandemic

Seeing the parking lot around the entrance of the supermarket is full I drive up onto the next floor. I park my car and push myself in my wheelchair to the lift. To my dismay, I discover it isn’t working.
“The lift’s broken,” I inform the guard as I’m on my way out.
“Call the manager. He’s in that room to your left,” urges the friendly guard.
The manager looks surprisingly young and handsome but also efficient. I explain my dilemma to him. He briskly walks towards the lift presses on his remote control and I am relieved it now works.
“We’ve stopped working the lift because of the Coronavirus,” he explains.
“But how can I come back up?” I ask.
He doesn’t answer.
“How will I be able to come back up?” I repeat myself.
He still doesn’t answer.
I think to myself, “I’ll just have to ‘cross that bridge when I come to it.’”
Upon entering the supermarket it’s painfully clear it isn’t abiding by the rule of only allowing ten people in at the same time, with the distance of two yards between each person. Rules which had been made to hopefully prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Quite the opposite, there is chaos. The place is jammed full of people like sardines. Everyone is rushing around frantically and filling their carts until they are overflowing. I notice only a couple of people are wearing protective face masks and no one is wearing protective gloves. I’m here because my family had advised me to buy provisions to keep me going for two weeks in case I am put in quarantine. I weave through the crowds, buy rice, Quaker oats, two tins of baked beans (I notice one woman has filled her cart with over forty tins of baked beans), vegetables and lentils for thick winter soups, milk, bread… I put my shopping into plastic bags which I hang onto the handlebars of my wheelchair and also pile stuff onto my lap. When my shopping is so heavy it threatens to pull me over I go to the check-out counter for invalids. As always there is a long queue of perfectly healthy people in front of me. Everyone is impatient and pushing. I feel sorry for the girl at the till she looks tense, her eyes are wild with dilated pupils. One can see she is anxious least she catches the virus from one of the shoppers. As I push my way out of the shop towards the lift a guard says, “Lady some of your shopping has fallen off.”
I look back, thank him and go to retrieve the fallen bags. Discovering that again the lift doesn’t work, my spirit sinks.
“Can you please call the manager the lift doesn’t work?” I ask a guard who is standing close at hand.
“It’s nothing to do with me,” he replies.
I push myself over to another guard, “The lift doesn’t work, what shall I do?”
“I don’t know it’s nothing to do with me,” he also replies.
I wheel myself over to the complaints station.
“The lift doesn’t work, I need to get to my car, can you call the manager for me?” I ask the woman sitting there.
“The lift has nothing to do with us,” she replies.
In desperation, I quickly roll myself into the direction of the guard at the entrance of the mall. On my way once again someone points out to me, “Lady, some of your shopping has fallen off.”
“Oh dear, thank you for telling me,” I say and I go back to retrieve the fallen goods.
Arriving at the guard I repeat my quest, “The lift doesn’t work can you please call the manager?”
“No, it’s nothing to do with me,” he answers.
“Maybe you could help me by pushing me up to the upper-level parking lot?”
“No, absolutely not.”
“Then I’ll push myself up,” I say, even though I know there’s no way I can safely make it to the top parking lot.
I make as if I am about to push myself up the extremely steep ramp road. The guard catches hold of my wheelchair’s handlebars and yanks at them.
“Lady, don’t do that it’s dangerous.”
His yanking causes my wheelchair which is laden down with so much shopping to topple backward. I tumble back and lay still like a flipped over tortoise, my shopping scatters all over the place, a bag of milk bursts, cars wanting to pass, honk! The poor frustrated guard hurriedly lifts my wheelchair, hoists me back into it and helps me gather up my shopping. Now at long last, he does what any of the other guards could have done, he calls the manager.
“Go to the lift, it will be working,” he says kindly.
As I enter the lift several other people squeeze in with me. I am so relieved it works. Upon arriving on the next floor the manager is waiting for me. When he sees the other people in the lift with me he is peeved, he reprimands them and tells them they have to get out. I speed off to my car feeling delighted at having successfully finished my shopping.

29.03.2020 – Three weeks into the Pandemic

The pandemic is spreading rapidly and the death toll is rising daily. The whole country is in ‘shut down’ except for essential services. The supermarkets are now strictly abiding by the rules.


Jerusalem, Israel

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This publication is part 10 of 27 in the series Covid-19 Files