Saturday, March 21, 2020

CoViD-19: I've Been Everywhere, Man. Finding Stuff in San Diego.

It's Saturday and I cannot tell you how good it feels to finally have the things we need. We have an abundance of produce and pasta and rice and canned goods and a freezer full of food...that's just how we roll on the regular...but not having toilet paper? Man, that was really stressing me out. But we took care of it and now could pretty much last for months at home if we really had to. After the jump, I'll share my adventures in shopping.

(Update 3/25/2020: This one has been the most popular post to date, so scroll to the bottom with some updates.)

Friday night, a friend turned me on to a supply warehouse with toilet paper. With some peace of mind, I took a couple hours to sleep, woke up to finish my work and a new article for SoundDiego, then went back to sleep. I woke up around 5:30am and decided I might as well motivate and take care of some things.

Home Depot on Imperial Avenue - Home Depot locations are still opening at 6am, but they're closing earlier than their posted hours. Mostly this stop was to get Latex and Nitrile gloves for my mom, who takes care of my dad. They fall in the 65+ category and my dad has been homebound for 2+ years, so to say we want them fully quarantined and my mom not leaving the house is an understatement. There's a 2 box/customer limit, but it seems other locations (like the one on Palm Avenue & 805) are out of these items.

Since I wasn't too far from my parents' house, I thought I'd swing by and leave the stuff on their porch, but not before checking out the Vons on Palm Avenue at the Palm Street Promenade. It wasn't yet open, so I checked out that Home Depot before coming back. The line outside at Vons was slow moving, I decided after waiting 10 minutes I didn't want to wait in it, so I popped over to that store that starts with a W and ends with all of the family being billionaires on the backs of poor people. There I was able to find flushable wipes that my mom was looking for, one (per the limit) 4-pack of toilet paper, some cat food, isopropyl alcohol and peroxide (always like to have on hand but we were out) and some Pringles, because once you pop, you can't stop. I heard a man practically in tears because of the wetwipe limits. "Man, I have a baby. Am I supposed to come back every day??" Heartbreaking.

I swung by my mom's house, leaving the wipes and gloves on her doorstep. Then proceeded to JEXports.

JEXports Chula Vista - This place seems to mostly service food trucks, so all those amazing tacos you love to talk about? Most likely they're getting their meat from this spot. I was able to secure 2 more cheapie packs of toilet paper (per the limit), frozen chicken thighs for $.59/lb!! at the meat counter, some napkins (because you never know), achiote, and the big find of the day...HAND SANITIZER.
It's not cheap, $36.95 for a 1 gallon bottle, and like an idiot I bought some for someone else who no longer needed it. Yay, me. We'll call this accidental hoarding, mmmkay?  But actually, my college soccer coach, of all people, reached out and bought the second bottle. It was a little awkward having him picking it up and me not being able to give a hug and talking six feet apart, because social distancing and all, but gotta do what you gotta do. These are such weird times.

Let's see, from there I cruised down Main St, caught the 5 North, and went to find the secret stash of toilet paper. But I got to the location and instead of opening at 8 as I was told, they changed their hours to open at 10. So I was near downtown with two hours to kill. If I went home, I might've lost motivation to go back, so my next stop was Gonzalez/Northgate.

Gonzalez/Northgate (1950 Main Street, Barrio Logan, San Diego): This store was counting off as people went in I was 46. They shockingly had 12 packs of toilet paper, but they had a print on them and were lavender scented, which I didn't even know was still a thing. And, um, no thanks. They had 4packs of plain so I got one of those, picked up some warm breads from the bakery, and then got out of the store as fast as possible so I wasn't keeping new people waiting outside.

With a lot of time to kill, I circled to downtown, passed Grocery Outlet but there was a line, so I went to Smart and Final.

Smart & Final (720 15th Street) - There was no line to get in the store, but I didn't really need anything either. They had plenty of water if you're looking for it, no tp to be found, I picked up some croutons for all the salads we've been eating, and some cheese popcorn because Nova has never had the pleasure of those little individual bags of it. (You can tell I'm starting to lose it and impulse buy, no?). My big find here was two 6packs of Thorn Rock The Pale, which they've ceased canning. I'm sure it's a great look buying 2 six packs before 9am, but whatever. Essentials, amirite?

Grocery Outlet (1002 Market St) - Since I had to pass it to get back to my tp destination, I thought I'd check and there was no longer a line to get in. I did a short little store loop, picking up some tortilla chips, future avocados (ones that won't be ripe for a week or so), hamburger buns (which have been hard to find for whatever reason) and a few other things. They've marked tape on the ground to wait in line so only one person is by the checker at a time, and they're having you bag your own stuff, so their hands aren't all over your food.

I still had time to kill, so I went to Cesar Chavez park and walked on the pier, shooting some pics and staring at the Bay. It felt so normal. It was nice. I hope that the 'stay-at-home' order doesn't have to get stricter than it is, because truth is, we can be more isolated from people by driving to a canyon, or pier, or park, than we can by just walking around our super dense neighborhood while trying not to break our next with the shitty sidewalks and construction and cars double parked and blocking driveways and all that.

Finally, I made it to the toilet paper goldmine, South Bay Fishery.

South Bay Fishery (1852 National Avenue) First of all, call for hours, because the website doesn't match their regular hours, and it definitely doesn't match the modified quarantine hours (10am-4pm today, but unclear for other days). And look, if you're looking for your American branded stuff, you're not gonna find it here.

What you'll find is a 96-roll box of individually wrapped (in paper) rolls for $70 or a box of 12 super jumbo rolls (I call them the Ken Club rolls) for $39. There was also a pallet of boxes containing latex gloves, that you could purchase individually (50 per box) or by the case. After so many stores, I didn't really take the time to check out their freezers (presumably they actually have fish), but they did have an assortment of canned fish like anchovies and crab.

This is a pretty small storefront, but they did have produce that was pretty cheap. I grabbed some "today-avocados" as Nova and Darren call them for 4 for $1. They also had breads and such, but we're maxed out at the moment.

So it was all a great success. Nine stores later if you count the stops at Palm Avenue, and we're all set. At least until I have to go to Target for tampons. I'll note that I wore gloves for all shopping, using my own pen for signing my credit slips or using it to punch in my ATM code when needed. If you really focus, it's astonishing how much you want to cough or clear your throat or touch your face, but you don't. I will also say I didn't touch a single shopping cart, even with gloves, or any other public surface, for that matter. I just really, really don't want to get sick. Nor do I want to be a carrier and share it with anyone else. And I kinda hope when this is all over that we don't backslide; that we all keep up this over-hygienic fervor because I kinda like the personal space.

update***- Some people have reached out and mentioned other spots to find things.

CostCo seems to depend on time of day and location. They are limiting the amount of people in the store while also sanitizing the baskets, so don't grab one in the parking lot like you might on other occasions. We went on Wednesday night after 7pm and had no lines at the gas pump or getting inside the store. They had almost everything they normally would except for refrigerated chicken, tp, and paper towels. They didn't have the fresh baguettes and the bagels are now Kirkland instead of Einstein Brothers. They were limiting rotisserie chickens to 1 per family, but I didn't see if other things, like eggs, milk, and butter were being limited.

North Park Produce Darren used to live across the alley from this place, but we go there almost never because we have Pancho Villa's across the street. But when things were scarce everywhere else, they had lots of stuff we wanted, like onions and potatoes. I can't speak to their other stores, but the one on El Cajon wasn't crazy busy and I tried to zip in and out as quickly as possible. We got a kilo of the warm tortillas they sell (which come from Tortilleria Lily just about a mile away) because Pancho had been so slammed.

Pancho Villa I can't really speak to Pancho Villa. Darren has run over there a few times and picked up ground beef, steaks, chips, sausages, and flour tortillas, and says it wasn't a long wait to check out, but the meat counter is pretty long. Nova ran over to pick up cilantro in the middle of the day today (49cents a bunch) and says there were only two people in front of her at checkout.

Again, use gloves, cover your face if you can, don't touch the carts if you can avoid it, and try to find a pen that has a stylus on the end to tap your ATM pin and push the prompts on the screen. We had a few of these laying around from street fairs and such; they're often given away as swag but you can buy them, too, and then you never have to finger touch a screen or grab the store's stylus again. We've also tried to avoid group trips because we tend to dilly dally, we buy more than we need, and we're trying to minimize exposure here. It's not a perfect system and I'm sure someone thinks we're doing it all wrong, but it's what we can do being apartment dwellers in a dense, urban neighborhood.

Good luck out there. These are crazy times we're living...let's get through them together.

Update 3/25/2020: I think I've finally gotten everything for our household and things for my mom so she'll stop leaving the house. Some spots I've checked out:

PetSmart: We were able to find all the cat food and dog food we normally buy. We went to the store in Mission Valley and it was mostly empty, though I was irritated that the cashier didn't just use the gun to scan my stuff and instead palmed every dumb tin and pouch of cat food I was buying. Staff didn't have gloves or face protection at all. Pretty disappointing, but gotta feed the pets.

Costco (Mission Valley location, Wednesday, noon): The stores have boards in front with items that are available and those that are out of stock. The line to get in was short (4 carts in front of me) so I was able to get my mom's paper goods, a rotisserie, butter, coffee, and a couple other things we needed. Hoping to not have to go there for awhile. Everyone is acting like life is just normal here, too, though I noticed some new protocols--they are sanitizing carts so you shouldn't grab one from the parking lot, they added plastic sneeze guards between cashiers and customers, instead of asking for your card they ask you to hold it while they scan it, and the person at the exit now just eyeballs your receipt and cart without highlighting it like they usually do.

Grocery Outlet (Allied Gardens): I only needed lactose-free whole milk. We always buy about 4 or 5 of these at a time because we go through it quickly and it isn't offered in gallons. They were well stocked in dairy. The store seemed stocked in pretty much it's usual way, offering things you didn't know you needed and not carrying something you want (blue cheese salad dressing). No paper goods, but otherwise, seemed just fine. 

I really haven't seen shortages of things, but I've completely avoided the standard grocery as much as possible. I haven't hit Vons, Ralph's, Food For Less, Trader Joes, or Sprouts at all. Leave a comment and tell me what your experiences have been. Or if you're trying to find something, leave a comment and I maybe have seen it around and can help. If I can help it, I won't be leaving the house again for several days.

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