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Just so you know: I am not panicking. I am not alarmed. I am concerned. Mindful. We’ll get past this. But we are not there yet.
I go out at night, to scavenge. I have stocks to last the family a while, but every day I note some lack that could be filled. The situation is absurd: the stores are denuded of bread and toilet paper, but the circular we got in the mail promises a BOGO on frozen fish. No hamburger tonight, but the exquisitely seasoned artisanal salmon? Two for one, and there’s lots of it.
The mood in the store is subdued. The stockers are young and tired. They are moving the product to the lip of the shelf so the rows don’t looked ravaged and denuded. The pasta is mostly gone, same with the sauce. The expensive varieties are still available. No eggs, but one small container of Brown Organic Eggs. I put it in the cart, and mentally tote up the number of eggs we have now: 18.
As I said, no pre-packaged bread. No yeast. Ah: one loaf of diet bread, 40 calories per slice. I put it in the cart, and mentally tote up the stocks: we have one loaf open, two in the freezer. That’ll do. No more. We’re good.
Hello, hummus: the varieties could be more bounteous, but even now there’s still a choice. Garlic, Red Pepper, plain. This matters, because yesterday the store had a BOGO on some chickpea nuggets, frozen, 16 to a bag, and the store has pita bread. This is four meals. The Rotary exchange student coming to stay this week doesn’t like spicy food; this will help.
The speakers are playing ’80s rock.
DOAN STOP. BEHLIEEVIN
There’s an older guy with a lurid amount of brilliant shiny grey hair chatting with the deli clerk, and he’s amused at people getting panicked. His cart has potato chips and chili.
The pizza freezers are mostly empty. I tell myself they’ll be filled tomorrow, or the day after, and I won’t see it, because I only show up at night to scavenge. But it’s entirely possible the frozen pizza supply chain is stressed right now. I have a month’s supply, but I always have a month’s supply.
The check-out clerk is friendly but curt and tired. We don’t make jokes, but we act normal. The bagboy asks if I need help carrying it out to my car, and I act insulted. No, lad. Strong like bool!
I sit in the car, and text Daughter: no yeast. Then I think, maybe there’s yeast at the store close to our home. I go there. Grab a basket, walk inside – and for the first time in my life I am astonished by the great glory of an American grocery store produce section. I mean, it’s just a glorious, brilliant thing. It’s so reassuring. It’s a bright garish affirmation. I pick up some salad material, and go to the baking aisle.
I fill in a few items that appear to be well-stocked – hey, there’s wife’s favorite yogurt. She took two today to work, there’s lots here, I can top off. I buy an extra store-brand pizza, because they were out last time. I see my favorite candy, an expensive licorice I only get when it’s on sale. It’s not on sale. I toss it in the basket. Screw it. I’m going to pay $25 to stream the last stupid Star Wars movie this weekend, I’m going to pop for my favorite licorice.
But one piece after supper, not two.
The line is short; the store is closing soon. From a scan of other people’s baskets, no one’s panic-buying. I wonder if anyone else got the last yeast. In front of me is a young woman in her 20s, and her purchase consists entirely of a single flower she chose from the floral display by the entrance. That’s all. The checkout clerk puts it in a protective bag, and she leaves.
I say to the clerk that it was nice to see someone just buy a flower, and she agrees. It was.
When I get in my car I reach in my pocket for the hand sanitizer, and it’s not there, and I feel a twinge: did you lose it in the store, ya idiot? It’s not like you’re dead now, there’s more at home, the emergency stocks, but you don’t want to dip into those – ah, it’s on the car seat. I rub my hands and head home and put everything away, including the beer I bought because they said the bars were going to be closed. All told we’re good through April.
If, you know, it comes to that. I don’t think it will. But let’s just assume it does.
And I think: okay there is plague about in the land. Also, I have to get my oil changed tomorrow.
I wonder who got that flower. Maybe she just felt like bringing it home, so it reminded her of the imminence of Spring,Published in