Lockdown Week 8: the new norm seems to be an endless queue for a slot

May 16, 2020

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.

We waited with baited breath to hear Boris’ statement to the nation…..and as expected nothing much has changed for us, the slightly older generation, that is. We must queue for everything whilst social distancing at least 2m apart. We still can’t see anyone unless you bump (not literally) into a friend from another household in the park, whilst we are taking our, now, limitless exercise with other members of our own household. No hugging our children even if they could visit us. They are allowed to drive here to take exercise but not to see us. Maybe if they stood in the garden doing star jumps whilst chatting to us then we would be complying with government guidelines.

Life is starting to begin again but I liken it to that childhood game, My Grandmother’s Footsteps. One person, ‘Grandmother’ (Covid-19 in this case), stands at the front of the room, with their back to us, and the rest of us stand in a line (currently 2m apart) at the back of the room. We take tiny steps towards ‘Grandmother’ and if ‘Grandmother’ turns around and sees anyone moving they have to go back to the start. The idea being who can get to Grandmother first and overpower her. Of course there will always be those that will run at ‘Grandmother’ throwing caution to the wind but she is bound to catch those ones. As we all know slow and steady wins the race.


As in this childhood game the temptation is that as one gets nearer one gets braver and risks more. This will be the case as lockdown is slowly lifted. Right now though, we have to be patient and continue with tiny steps in order to win.

Rather vainly I listened with hope to the government statement to when hairdressers would re-open but it seems that luxury service is unlikely to be back in operation much before July. By that time I shall have a fringe down to the floor. However help is at hand as my friend, Jane, has ordered a dog grooming kit from Amazon so I think I may just borrow that once she has trimmed her dog, Zorro.

Actually dog groomers have been allowed to re-open under very strict regulations. My dogs, by coincidence, happened to have a previously booked appointment for 8am on the first day of opening. I was not allowed in and had to let go of my dogs at the front door. Luckily they adore their dog groomer, Sophia, and they bounded in knocking her and all the carefully placed sanitising products flying. It will be much the same way that I will enter my hairdresser’s salon in July if I can still see through my ‘mop’ by then.

Annabel and her groomed dogs

On returning home the dogs had to spend 4 hours in the garden so if there were any Covid-19 viruses loitering in their very fluffy, bouffant hair they would move on.

I have to admit to being quite excited and slightly nervous being out in the world again, driving a car and waving to anyone and everyone in a slightly demented, rather than royal, way. The human world was starting to wake up and was stepping out, like me, from the safety of our homes.

We had all become slightly institutionalised and were not sure how to behave. I watched as people were courteously avoiding each other, skirting each other on the pavement, whilst hurrying to get on with their lives. Is this the new Norm?

Punching my pin code into a card machine was like dipping my hand into boiling water. I quickly put on my blue plastic gloves which, like dog poo bags, are clearly going to be an addition to every one of my handbags. And on returning to my car I smothered my hands in sanitiser and we whizzed back to the safety of our home.

However what I have realised is that the new norm is going to involve slots and queues. We are known as the nation that loves to queue. If it was an Olympic sport we would win the gold medal. It is time to show off the years of being in training for this very moment. The challenge is to know if you are queuing for the shop that you want. I went to pick up my Click and Collect from Waitrose and dutifully joined the queue outside said supermarket. However I soon discovered that this was not in actual fact the correct queue as I needed to be outside New Look for Click and Collect and even then I needed to be careful that I didn’t co-mingle with the queue for Boots. I couldn’t ask anyone in any queue what they were queuing for as I was 2m from the nearest person and we were all wearing masks so conversation was limited.

The Social distance queue for Waitrose

So fellow Brits we need to brush up on our queuing skills as there are some new, hidden obstacles that we need to navigate.

Then there is the SLOT. I have spent 8 weeks queuing online for a delivery slot and have become quite patient as the time they tell you, when you join, is not the 8 hours they claim and can suddenly drop to 20 minutes so you have to be awake and on the ball otherwise you can miss your slot. Maybe this sudden reduction in time is because some people discover they are in the wrong queue or decide that they don’t need food. My girlfriend says it is because you can be in more than one online queue and so you must hedge your bets and join at least three supermarket queues for an online slot and just jump on the one that gets you in fastest.

Yesterday my local recycling centre emailed saying I have to book a slot in order to get rid of my 8 weeks of household waste that can’t be collected by my refuse men.

Signs for a queue for the recycling centre

So now I have three online queues going for a food delivery and another one for recycling. Is this going to be the new norm from now on? Then when I get to the recycling centre I will have to queue again at a 2m distance. I am sure Sir Patrick Valance, the CSO, will soon produce a graph telling us that we spend over 40% of our lives queuing for a slot. It certainly means I have no time to meet any family or friends. Maybe we can introduce timed slots for these activities too and I can get into that queue too.


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