The highlights of my week – and this is sad but true – are thus:

  • I found a completely addictive and fun color by number game that I can play on my phone while I supervise my younger daughter’s homework. It’s mindless enough that I can advise her on multiplication best practices while tapping away, and if I have to set it down to explain a concept to her further, it’s extremely easy to pick up from where I left off.
  • My husband found a full, unopened, not-yet-expired pack of Clorox wipes in the upstairs bathroom cabinet. We were not yet out (I accidentally double-ordered some back when “pandemic” was just an SAT vocabulary word I’d long forgotten), but we were getting low enough that I was starting to have anxiety about it.
  • My Shipt shopper managed to procure not only the chive-and-onion cream cheese that Ruby devours on the order of one container per day but also the chocolate pudding cups that Georgia inhales nightly as her homework reward and the seedless rye bread that my dad loves. It was an incredibly successful trip.

So. About the whole Shipt thing. About paying anyone to shop for me right now. I don’t feel great about it, OK? I have sort of made my peace with paying someone to do something for me that I suck at doing (painting my toenails, for instance, or wrapping presents) or paying someone to do something for me that I don’t want to do (if I could afford it, I would definitely pay someone to clean my house). But I feel distinctly uneasy (read: shitty) about paying someone to do something I don’t feel safe doing.

When I first became anyone’s boss – back in college, managing a Baskin-Robbins – I felt very strongly that I’d never ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. So yes, Free Scoop Night was a nightmare, but I was working there right beside everyone else with aching arms and a sweat-soaked and extremely unflattering blue baseball cap. The Valentine’s Day rush? I worked it elbow-to-elbow with my co-workers, mixing bins of icing, and our collective hands were stained red with food dye for days afterward. When the AC broke in July, I took over anyone’s shift who didn’t want to work in those conditions.

Not being an asshole is my No. 1 governing principle, and if you ask Ruby or Georgia what the most important family rule is, they’ll both reply cheerfully: “Don’t be an asshole!” (Not cursing is obviously not on our list of family rules.)

So paying someone to go into a grocery store right now because I don’t feel safe doing so? Well, that makes me feel quite a bit like an asshole.

The last time I ventured into a grocery store, though, which was back in early April, I almost had a full-on panic attack. There were no masks. There was no limit on store capacity. People bunched up around the disinfecting wipes at the entrance, and it was impossible to get down an aisle without being within 2 feet of someone. I had to wait a full 7 minutes for a guy (I suspect he was high) to stop inspecting every jug of milk for the latest possible expiration date so I could sneak in a grab a half-gallon of 2 percent. And when I got in line, waiting the requisite 6 feet behind the customer in front of me, someone immediately got way too close behind me. When I moved up, they did too. By the time I’d paid (using a debit card and punching in my PIN with a wet wipe over my finger) and got out to my car, I was a complete and total nervous wreck, and I vowed never again.

It’s not so much that I’m worried about myself, although I am. It’s that I am the sole caregiver for my 82-year-old father who is recovering my double pneumonia. So much as a cold could send him back to the hospital. And I can’t “social distance” from him because I’m helping him out of bed, monitoring his temperature, giving him his meds and handing him his water. I’m adjusting his pillows while wearing two masks and holding my breath. “If I get sick,” goes the anxiety siren song in my brain, “I will kill my father.”

Aaaaand so I’m an asshole now who pays someone to take risks I can’t take in pursuit of rye bread and canned ravioli and flavored seltzer.

I mind my manners, if that helps. I say “yes, please” and “that’s fine, thank you” when they text me about a substitution or an out-of-stock item. And I tip well, which I’m sure does help. I’m not spending money on gas or entertainment or birthday presents or meals out right now, so I might as well.

I still feel guilty about it, but then I look at my dad, who achieves new milestones every day now. He walked out to get the paper. He made himself a pot of grits. He did a load of laundry. The slightest illness would derail him completely, so I’m willing to leverage my privilege on his behalf.

Watching him get better, stronger, every day is a true highlight – much better even than a hidden cache of Clorox wipes.

I’m so grateful – and so scared.

To everyone out there on the frontlines – health care workers and first responders, yes, but also grocery store and pharmacy employees and all the people shopping for me – thank you! It’s not enough, my gratitude, but still: THANK YOU! Are you shopping for yourself? For vulnerable friends or family members? Or are you avoiding altogether, and if so, do you feel guilty about it?