Life was normal on Wednesday, March 11th, 2020. A prescient part of my brain advised me to stock up on groceries, though. Publix and Walmart are on opposite corners near my home in Pensacola, Florida. Navigating mid-day traffic was no problem. I stocked up on the usual staples, even grabbing a large container of bleach. Why put that in my cart, a product that will last a year in my home, I asked myself?
By Saturday, the great Toilet Paper Hoarding event had started, and I was down to two rolls. But I, a seasoned procrastinator, saw this as an opportunity to put my head in the sand. I laughed at all the crazy people running down the streets with bales of ass wipes. By Monday, I too had to join in. There are some things one can’t do without. In the year 2020 there aren’t any Sears’ catalogs to use as ‘tp’, nor would our septic systems survive the harsh pages. I would not survive visiting an outhouse in the south either, with visions of snakes and giant bugs slipping up my bare butt as I sat down. It was time to join the throngs of people at the local Sam’s.
At 9:15 in the morning, the parking lot was half empty. But as I walked into the store, it was apparent that shoppers entering the facility had one destination, the back of the building where the basic necessity of life was stored-toilet paper. People weren’t smiling, happy, or cordial. We loaded our huge metal carts with even bigger packages of a product the media warned was in short supply. In hindsight, I understand that I wasn’t the only one to suffer from embarrassment. “Really,” I wanted to shout, “I’m out of the stuff. I’m not hoarding.” But I kept quiet. Humor was also in short supply.
The trip to Sam’s then became an experiment in human psychology. I slowed my steps and watched the shoppers. Would anyone return my smile? No, if I grinned at a stranger, they scowled back at me. Did I not understand the seriousness of the situation? I looked into people’s carts. What did they consider essentials? The sugary snacks remained on shelves, along with bread. The meat trays were empty, no hamburger or chicken, either frozen or fresh. Customers lined up at the baked chicken counter, ready to grab the delicious birds as they came out of the ovens.
The store was quickly becoming crowded. It was time to leave. Shoppers shuffled to the self-checkout stations, like self-employed cattle. For the record, I hate machines that take jobs away from real flesh and blood people. There is always a glitch, and I stand there like an idiot. Sure enough, my machine did not accept my credit card. An employee came by and said, you have to slide your card through three times quickly, hit a button, yadda, yadda. Sure, like I’d know that secret. I picked up the wand to scan my purchases, the dirty implement that hundreds of people before me had touched. What is wrong with this picture, I wondered, gagging at the thought of all those germs on my hands. Then my machine said I wasn’t authorized to buy a bottle of wine. People behind me tried to help me, shouting to touch this button or another, like I could tell the electronic brain that I’m over eighteen. Way over eighteen, and in serious need of a glass of fermented grape juice. I waved my hands at anyone looking official. Finally the lady came back and asked if I only had one bottle of wine. Seriously, did I look like I needed a case? As I left the store the courteous woman by the exit door asked me how I was doing. I told her in jest that Sam’s should never hire me as a cashier on the self-checkout stations. I sucked at it. She laughed; the first person I’d seen in the store that had a good attitude about our shared dilemma.
How do I feel about the pandemic? At first I was very mad. The media never misses an opportunity to look on the bad side of life, our president, our future, and our faith. The Blame Game was played on channel after channel. Who cares whose fault it is that the inevitable has happened? A worldwide virus is circling our globe. Let’s move on, and work together to solve the problem.
For now the situation from day to day is alarming. The bare shelves at the local supermarket look like a scene from The Handmaid’s Tale. I can’t help wondering how long before our food purchases are rationed.
My parents used to talk about the Great Depression from 1929 to 1938. Times were tough; people had no food, clothes or homes. No bailouts. My mother told me stories about all the ways her parents tried to earn money. At this point, our pandemic situation in America is not as futile or tragic.
If one listens to the news channels though, this is the beginning of the end, leading to another depression, government control, gun confiscation, etc. I made a decision this week to rarely listen to the news. To not surrender to depression, to survive whatever is coming down the road, I need to protect myself from hype, lies, and the hubris of self-important newscasters. Give me the truth, just the facts, please.
I’ll try to journal how I’m surviving from day to day, retired with my four animals. My hobbies keep me sane; my friends are and always will be my lifeline. Best of all, I won’t give up on life. Not yet. If it’s my time to succumb to the virus, then I’ll go down with a smile. For now you can find me in my craft room, or riding my favorite horse or training my dogs.
Until the next chapter, stay healthy and positive. We can get through this together.