Since we went into lockdown six months ago, grocery shopping has been quite a stressful business. Maintaining social distancing, one way systems around supermarkets, the handling of items that maybe a dozen people have already handled. Your mind is in overdrive and you’re on constant alert. Even Fionnuala, a veteran at this new way, admitted to me the other day that she dreads going shopping now. It’s akin to a military operation against an invisible enemy.
Thank goodness then for online shopping. Not so much food, as you can no longer expect your local Tesco van to pull up to the front door the day after you place an order. You have to wait weeks now, such is the demand for deliveries. You would probably have starved to death as online delivery slots are are rare as hen’s teeth. Then there’s the substitute items. Ask for Diet Coke and they turn up with Pepsi Max or, God forbid, own brand cola.
Online shopping does work though with regards other items and, without it, this enforced quarantine would be a whole lot harder. If I want a book, it’s on my Kindle within seconds. We’ve been gardening and decorating quite a bit these last few weeks and all manner of boxes have been arriving at the front door. Vans are forever turning up and their drivers dumping everything from wallpaper to potted plants on the doorstep.
If it hadn’t been for online shopping my birthday, earlier this week, would have been a non event. But in the weeks preceding it Fionnuala and the kids have been furtively secreting packages about the house, away from my curious eyes. This meant that come the big day I was able to unwrap a Garmin watch, Kindle Fire, clothes, books and even a personalised cheeseboard and knives. I do like cheese. Have I ever mentioned that before?
Perverse as this may read, I’m saving a fortune by staying at home. My fuel bill and train fares have disappeared. Going outdoors necessitates spending money. Sitting on the sofa reading and watching Netflix does not. This has allowed the extra pennies to go towards home improvement and other projects that have been on the back burner forever and a day. The planet shutting down has opened up a whole new world within our own four walls.
The online world is a murky one. It contains all kinds of traps and pitfalls. I’ve stumbled into such pits down the years. It can be darkly addictive and many of us wish we didn’t spend the amount of time we do on it. I know I’m online more than I want to be. It’s necessary in order to build and promote my writing career but, given my obsessive nature, I’m conscious of the dangers and risks. It can, and will, take over if we allow it to. I’m forever wary of it.
But, like most things, it has a positive side to it which has certainly come to the fore as the pandemic continues to sweep all in its path. Social media and apps like Zoom have allowed us to keep in touch with friends and family like never before. You don’t have to be a hermit and many people’s lives will never be the same again now they have had to adapt their social interactions. Online quizzing has exploded and many churches, businesses and clubs are reaching out to new audiences as a result.
The internet is a double edged sword. The flip of a coin can lead you down new roads which can enhance or destroy your life. I’ve wandered down both in my time. Enjoy and make the most of this valuable and innovative tool. But tread carefully and read the signposts carefully. One stray step off the well trod path and you could find yourself lost forever, a helpless Alice tumbling down a rabbit hole from which you will never emerge again.