Monthly Archives: April 2020

Three packages of groceries

So I finally tried Instacart for the first time on Sunday. And I was impressed. It’s really a tradeoff of convenience and ability to stay home against paying a few reasonable fees. Could be especially good for parents (who don’t want to take kids who touch everything in stores) or others who might have reason to not want to venture out.

Starting is simple: You create an account (can do so via Google), pick a local store, request a delivery window and then shop online. In Oswego, you can get delivery from Aldi (my choice), Price Chopper or Tops, and can order for pickup from Wegmans. The selection of items are good, although the stock is not necessarily in real time — there’s a chance items might be out of stock, but you can select potential replacements with other brands or slightly different products.

Take ramen noodles, for example. My son’s mom said she couldn’t find them where she lived, and you can find the $2.50 12-packs selling for $20 on Amazon and eBay from profit-takers. I ordered two 12-packs (one for her, since Arius goes through a lot of it) and while Aldi was out of Maruchan, they subbed in Top Ramen for about the same price.

There are catches, of course. Currently, you need a $35 minimal order to lock in your prices. I paid a $3.99 delivery fee and a $2 service fee (the latter seems newish), plus tip. Tips are not stated as required, but certainly the right thing to do, especially nowadays. You can autotip different percentages as high as 20 percent, or a custom amount. These added expenses came to $15 for my order (for what was a lot of groceries). Instacart has coupons and special deals that can save money to its customers. I still prefer Bosco and Geers for meat and baked goods, and Ontario Orchards for fruits, veggies and baked goods (I love baked goods), but Instacart can take care of the rest.

I didn’t mind paying that, because I’ll trade money for convenience. Aldi through Instacart is great for dry goods, which is a large portion of my staple diet. I also wanted to do more baking, so needed things like more flour and brown sugar. Many of the things I buy at Aldi are a buck cheaper than I find elsewhere, so it balances out somewhat. I ordered mid-morning and had a 2 to 4 p.m. delivery window … and my food arrived at 1:45. The tip to a local hard-working gent was well-deserved.

Ultimately, I was able to stock up on some of my kid’s favorite foods while staying home and safe with him, playing and wondering what kind of person invented regrouping for elementary-school mathematics. For me, the tradeoff was definitely worth it.

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1 month into a ‘new normal’ that isn’t normal

A darkened office with an open door

A month ago today is when the world started rapidly changing.

On March 11, the governor announced that SUNY and CUNY schools would switch to remote learning. Among the subsequent social media storm, I didn’t have time to cancel what would be my last in-person class of the semester.

I arrived in Mahar to find only half my class attending. Those who did were anywhere between dazed and despondent. Some had just seen any sense of normalcy shatter. Seniors sadly said they had worked so hard for years to attend graduation, but were unsure they would. My response to them, and ever since, is resolute: Everybody on this campus wants you to have a graduation. You and your family deserve the celebration. But we don’t yet know when we can do it safely.

My original plan as of that morning was to give a lecture, hand out an assignment and pass back their research papers. None of that seemed viable. But knowing that some of them left that semblance of a class maybe feeling a little bit better, or taking even a modicum of comfort that a teacher cared about their physical and mental well-being means that class was more meaningful than I could ever have planned.

March 11 featured high drama on the national stage as well — in a moment sure to be recreated in some movie, a doctor raced onto the court of an NBA game to stop it because one of the players had tested positive. Suddenly, the league suspended the rest of its season. You-know-what had got real in a hurry.

On Friday the 13th (the only instance I’ll tolerate the written use of an ordinal number for a date), I arrived to pick up Arius to get a text from my mom that she saw on the news that his school had suspended face-to-face classes. (That my mother never seems to know any such thing before I do just added to the surreal nature of it all.) Sure enough, word was he’d be out of school for at least a month.

We spent that weekend maintaining some sense of normalcy, going to the children’s museum and acting like everything was going to be fine. In retrospect, we were young and naive (OK, one of us is not so young).

The week and a half from March 11 felt like a series of daily gut punches. More and more colleges and schools suspended in-person learning. Sports leagues and other institutions came to a halt. Bars, restaurants and non-essential businesses could no longer host customers. Most private businesses were told to work remote or not at all. Things I looked forward to were canceled or postponed.

By Friday, March 20, our whole team was working remote. I left the office at noon that day not sure when I would be working there on a regular basis again. I still don’t know.

Some of us have settled into some kind of routine. I start in my home office between 7:30 and 8 every morning. I still find ways to tell stories. I send and receive mountains of email. I spend time on Zoom or Google Hangout interviewing people for video stories, attending meetings or enjoying virtual hangs with my lunch crew. The commute is short and I get to wear sweatpants. But none of it feels normal.

I don’t know if we’ll be anywhere near normal in another month. Or even two months.

It’s a holy weekend for many people. Easter and Passover gatherings will not feature all the loved ones they normally would. I join them all in praying we find some kind of resolution.

Through it all, this I still know: We’re all in this together. Take care.

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