I was leaving the bakery I work at with the eight-pack of paper towels I’d purchased at the neighboring Target tucked under my arm. A coworker and customer called out, “Try not to get assaulted for those on your walk home.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I replied. “I’m poor and dangerous.”
I wasn’t happy about buying paper towels, but the store was completely out of toilet paper. My boss texted me earlier in the day to say the Target had restocked, but when I arrived 20 minutes later it was all gone.
Truth be told, I wasn’t trying to panic buy toilet paper. I was just running low out of the normal course of being a living organism.
As I lugged the bulky bundle of paper towels up the hill to my apartment, I chuckled inwardly about angry mobs of dirty-assed Americans raiding the homes of toilet paper hoarders and liberating reasonable amounts of paper products. As it stands, I have five rolls and then its on to the paper towels. I’m not looking forward to it and neither are my hemorrhoids.
It’s been a weird couple of weeks. Either we are all going to die, or the virus will fizzle out, and the powers-that-be will flood Twitter with self-praise. Any sort of middle-ground scenario seems to have packed up and fled the country.
A line had formed outside the Target on Saturday morning, and my boss and I joked about how to get people to panic-buy high-end cakes. I pitched the idea of “Quarantine Florentines” or making up something about baguette curing the coronavirus.
We had a laugh followed by a collective sigh.
My old lady and I walked into a King Soopers at about 5 p.m. on Saturday and the madness seemed to have settled down. A sign announced the store would be closing early for the immediate future. Another sign proclaimed that there were no bananas. I never cared for bananas, but the their absence sparked a tinge of sadness in me.
The potatoes had been ransacked, but organic carrots — purple, white and orange — were available for a song. The meat had been picked over, and now even the paper towels were gone. The beans were scarce, and the ramen noodles were nowhere to be found. We perused the frozen vegetable aisle. A grossly obese man in a tank top had cornered an employee and was griping about Barack Obama’s response to the swine flu. I grabbed a vegetable medley and moved on.
We filled our cart, and found a check-out lane with only one person in line. The cashier said the rush of customers had subsided, but the preceding two days felt like the days before Christmas and Thanksgiving, coupled with an impending blizzard, in terms of customer volume. He looked forward to a regular couple of days.
We pushed our cart to the parking lot, filled my truck and went home. The empty shelves in the produce and meat sections made me nervous. At the same time, it was difficult to feel any real sense of deprivation, especially after we procured Keurig cups, two kinds of lunch meat, organic macaroni and three varieties of soft drinks.
I guess we will manage.