Pre-pandemic, bargain hunting was of my favorite things. I loved a good sale, and the hunt for “treasure” is still fun, but does not hold the same draw as it once did. Now, I see all these maskless people hacking and coughing and touching everything, and my first reaction is “I need to get away from here,” and so I do. Basically, I have deduced there are more germs out to get me than there are pennies to be saved, so most of my shopping, if I do any in a real live store, is done in the “off-hours.”

One recent morning, I ventured out before work to get kitty litter. I also needed some Benadryl and deodorant, but with two cats in the house—one with lymphoma and a very sensitive tummy--litter was the driving force propelling me in the big-box store that early morning. As expected, there were only a few customers in the store, so I was happy with the germ count and proceeded to the pharmacy area near the front.

I noticed the allergy relief medication along with nearly everything else on three or four aisles was now behind clear barriers but not under “lock-and-key.” To access the products, you could still lift up the lid to get one, thereby having to touch yet another dirty handle that is probably heavily germ laden since it is “protecting” merchandise that sick people most often buy. Luckily, I keep hand sanitizer in my purse.

I stooped down to find what I needed and pushed back the lid, only to be greeted by a loud speaker thanking me for shopping, and then as I leaned into try to read the label, there was a an even louder warning, kind of like the one that sounds when the cashier fails to remove the anti-theft warning device from your purchase. Then, when I lifted the box from the container, I kid you not, there was an all-out wailing siren like the ones warning of an imminent tornado or other disaster. I quickly tried to put the box back, but it didn’t want to fit right, so I was fumbling with getting it back in place when I noticed a cheaper bottle of the off-brand next to it, so I picked it up, and the wailing got even louder. I looked around expecting to be bombarded by a security guard or at the very least a very large employee since apparently unbeknownst to me Benadryl is now a highly-valued or dangerous product. Instead, there was only wailing sirens.

At that point, I decided rather than risk setting off the alarm again, I would just let this one continue its cycle while I, stooped in the floor, put on my reading glasses to peruse the labels to see which bottle was the better value. This scene was repeated in the deodorant aisle. Now that I am considered a potential thief and not a valued customer, I am a very noisy shopper. My final stop was the kitty litter aisle, which I was able to load in silence.

As I exited the store, the guy in front of me was stopped so his receipt for three huge TVs could be checked. My four bags of kitty litter were also checked because again, apparently, we have a secret litter smuggling ring in Caldwell County. They must work with the Benadryl cartel and the deodorant pirates.

I think I’ll just shop online next time.