Any parent will understand that your kids are at home with you all day and every day. Every chore and every errand you have to run, your child is with you – there are no schools and no childcare available. This includes errands like grocery runs.
Last Wednesday morning, I geared up to go to the grocery store with my child. Masks? Check. Sanitizing wipes? Check. Hand sanitizer? Check. Snacks for cranky kiddo? Check. We got to the store and I noticed there wasn’t a security guard standing outside to ensure everyone abided by the ‘no face mask, no entry’ rule. I figured it would be ok because the store looked pretty empty – I had strategically chosen the morning to conduct this task because this shop is usually slow before lunch.
We entered the store, I grabbed a shopping cart and wiped it down with an alcohol wipe before putting my child in it – then went about my shopping.
Once I completed our shopping, we got in the checkout line and stood on the strip of red tape six feet behind the shopper ahead of us to follow the store’s social distancing policy – there was another strip six feet behind me, and so on.
There were only two of the ten cashier lines open, which is normal for mornings. Yet as I looked at the impulse buys in front of the register, the line behind us grew. My strategic plan of going shopping in the morning to avoid a crowd was crumbling.
I turned from looking at gum and noticed that the man behind us wasn’t wearing a mask and was mumbling to himself. Visibly agitated, he was muttering profanities about the slightly longer wait and had moved to within whispering distance of me. Did he even notice the red tape?! I think all parents, everyone for that matter, can imagine the fear and panic snowballing in the pit of my stomach as I hovered closer and closer to my child – hoping to shield her from harm with my body. Enough was enough.
At that point, I took a breath from through my mask, turned, and firmly told the man behind us that we’re all in this together and he should kindly withdraw to the red strip of tape six feet behind us and offered him an extra mask I had packed. He momentarily balked at my comment, but then begrudgingly took the mask and moved back to the strip of red tape. We got home without further incident, but it got me thinking – was that whole episode really necessary?
Since I work for an edge AI and computer vision company, I know there are better ways to manage and control situations such as the one I experienced. Firstly, deploying mask detection at store entrances can avoid the issue of not having security personnel on duty. If the store wants to invest further, they can include crowd density detection throughout the store as well as at the checkout. Computer vision is quick to implement. It isn’t complicated and there is no breach in privacy. In any case, if it can help protect my child without me having to step in and confront an agitated stranger, I really don’t mind a little bit of surveillance.
As an active member of the community, I do my civic duty whenever I can. I hope grocers and other retail shops will do the same by implementing extra measures to protect their shoppers.
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