Supermarket Sneeze

Jesler in Freiburg


Months ago, I wrote a paean of praise for the Mensa Canteen here in Freiburg. Needless to say, I was shaken to my core when I heard that its doors shut weeks ago due to the ongoing Corona pandemic, and a tear still manages to escape from my eye when I think about the fact that it remains closed. But where a door closes, a window opens. And now, the most delicious smells are escaping from this window. I hadn't expected it either, but due to a closed Mensa and more time on my hands, the kitchen is finally fulfilling its true purpose.

While I sometimes take the dinner-adventure in my own hands as well, it's, admittedly, my friends that I usually hand the golden spatula to. My fate? Chopping-queen and grocery-shopping-champion. Especially the latter is quite the test of courage. You see, it's not only the time of Covid-19 but also of pollen. And hay fever makes life in the open exceptionally terrifying. Let me give you a taste of a not so uncommon supermarket experience:

Mask in place, I confidently enter the supermarket, believing that, for once, I can make it this time. I get a disinfected shopping cart that is more useful as a tool to keep others away than at keeping my groceries safe. Everything still seems all right when I arrive at the first stop: fruits and veggies. Happily, I stare at every single apple, wondering whether the part I can't see is good or bad. After all, closely inspecting them one by one by picking them up and holding them against the fluorescent light is no longer ideal in times of Corona. Instead, it's like a carnival balloon pop game: you either hit and get a giant pink elephant, or you miss and are stuck with a beige crayon.

But then, the imaginary ants arrive in my nose. First one, making me twitch uncomfortably. Then a second. I start inhaling consciously in a desperate attempt to breathe them away. But two turn into ten, which turn into a hundred. I know that all hope is lost: I have to disappear. And quickly. So, I push my shopping cart through the supermarket maze, knocking over shelves to dodge people left, right and centre, looking for an abandoned corner.

And not even a millisecond after I arrive, it happens: the supermarket sneeze.

Followed by guiltily looking up, scanning my surroundings and staring at the face of that one person that entered my deserted corner after all. Confronted with their condescension, disgust and, worst of all, panic. Both our biggest fears have just become reality.

Nothing left to do but to return home, defeated. Forgetting half the groceries - I'm eating exceptionally many fruits and veggies these days, after all, that's as far as I get in the supermarket.

Luckily, my friends' cooking makes me forget this embarrassment every day anew. Which reminds me: I still have to go to the supermarket!

Jesler van Houdt

Supermarket Sneeze