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"Suggestions for Staying Safe While Shopping"

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
2 min read

Today, Kottke.org highlighted a grocery store worker’s video and her suggestions for safe shopping during a pandemic. On the list was (item #3) was, “Go to the bathroom at home.” Jason commented:

“Are people serious with #3?! Jesus. I know it can be difficult to think of something as simple and ubiquitous as grocery shopping as requiring forethought, but these are not normal times. Make a plan and stick to it.”

I love Kottke. He started blogging at the same time I did and he’s been a daily read ever since (we’re talking the 90s). And I did see a line at the bathroom this week when I went to Trader Joe’s, so this is not a small concern for the shopper or the workers.

Big BUT(t) coming…

That line at the store had my mind spinning for a lot of reasons. For about 20% of the population (who have IBS to some degree), using a public bathroom isn’t a choice. If you want to eat, or feed your family, you have go out and shop (unless you got lucky with delivery times being available in your area) and you take your chances with how your IBS is going to react.

20% is not a small number. You don’t hear about it more, because it’s embarrassing to talk about.

For many, the primary trigger of IBS is anxiety. Simply put, anxiety makes you have to poop, usually at the worst time possible. Your brain controls it, and your brain also knows when you’re at your most vulnerable.

What makes anxiety worse? Being stuck in a line that you can’t get out of. Being stuck in a pandemic that you can’t get out of. Being stuck in any way.

A lot of us writers fall into this category of anxiety-induced IBS. I’m not sure why that is, but I’m guessing it has something to do with a brain that’s a little bit more sensitive or empathetic. It tends to make us good at inner exploration. It tends to make us really good at things like copywriting. That’s the good stuff.

The bad stuff is that it also makes you have to run to a bathroom when you don’t want to. I have a whole lot of ways of dealing with it, but I see others out there who don’t deal with it as well, and shaming them doesn’t help (it does the opposite). I’m not saying that’s what Jason is doing, I’m just saying let’s all cut each other some slack. This is a once-in-a-century, horrific event and everyone was already coping with something when times were “great.”

I generally never judge anyone in public bathroom situations anyway. That’s wartime decision making. No one wants to be in there, no matter what brought you there.

Keep reading Jason. He’s doing a great job keeping up with the science on this. I don’t want to downplay that. And thank every grocery store worker you encounter. They’re on the front lines, and helping to keep us all fed at great personal risk. They should paid way more for what they’re doing now.

If you are an IBS sufferer, there are support groups, organizations, and I’m even drafting a new newsletter (separate from my personal newsletter) devoted to helping you plan how to deal with all this.

Plus, you can always just contact me if you need someone to talk to about it.

ibs