I finally had to get groceries – which I did yesterday morning (Sunday). I double checked online first to make sure of the store’s hours and got to the parking lot about 5 minutes before it opened. There was already a throng of people waiting.
I debated getting a shopping cart, but decided that since people were grabbing them and I knew I’d need one, I had best go get one, so I lost my spot in line and got a cart and returned to the end of the line. No biggie, we’d all get in, right?
About a minute before opening time, two men headed to the cart corral and it was clear that it was with some urgency. Angling to see better, I realized they were racing to get the last cart in the corral. There were stray carts out in the parking lot, but they were both focused on the one in the corral.
Suddenly there was a burst of anger, in a palpable wave and it was clear that an altercation was in progress. The employees had been in the windows taking cellphone photos of the crowds of us waiting, and now all cameras were on the two men. One was shouting that he was a police officer and to “drop the weapon”.
Apparently the other man had pulled a knife to threaten the off duty officer over a shopping cart.
By now the doors had opened and people pushed into the store while the policeman was still shouting at the other man to stop. The other man slipped into the store – probably hoping to get lost in the crowd.
Most people behaved. Some people did not. There was a guy pilfering from other people’s carts. An elderly woman got knocked over as collateral damage from two folks arguing over who was first in line to check out. A french couple was mystified and a little lost – I explained where the limited bread products could be found in the store’s bakery since the bread aisle was completely empty.
And all through the grocery store I was amazed that there was absolutely NO toilet paper, women’s sanitary products, diapers, baby formula, bread, milk, eggs, butter; and the soups, canned goods and dog food were depleted as well. It looked like photos of 1940-50 USSR. I felt like I was in the Eastern Block of Europe during the Cold War.
I was able to get about half of my normal grocery list. I am happy that I can bake bread at home – so not a big issue there…but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the folks on special diets, the elderly, the new mothers with infants and especially the people working in the store (who got yelled at often while I was there).
The man who threatened the policeman was apprehended (after taking someone else’s cart that had been parked in the aisle while the guy who had it was reaching up to a top shelf to get something).
What triggered this wave of irrational and awful behavior?
I’ve lived through hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, the Loma Prieta earthquake, mudslides, and black outs during blizzards – and I have not seen this much panic personally EVER before. I recall after Katrina (I lived in Texas and people were being relocated from Louisiana to Texas after losing their homes) there was a little hoarding of stuff – but not everywhere, and it stopped after a day or so of media shaming.
On my local NextDoor app – people are already posting that they are desperate for TP or baby formula. One women has rescue dogs that need dog food – and because they have medical issues they need special dog food. There is a guy who regularly posts for cans and bottles to help him pay for his insulin – I am really worried about him and all the rest.
The people who live paycheck to paycheck (through no fault of their own, I might add) will have the hardest time recovering from the loss of work, and those who might still have work, if they have kids are in a major dilemma – I would not like to have to choose between caring for my kids or keeping my job.
Small businesses are impacted, and that also dominoes out through their employees and into communities.
If you can afford it, now is the time to buy gift certificates from local restaurants and small businesses. If you can do it online – do it…it may help some of them stay afloat, feed their families, pay their bills. And you will have done your birthday and holiday shopping very early this year thus avoiding crowds later, too.
Check in on the elderly and the folks who are disabled or have compromised immune systems – if you are able – sometimes just a phone call can be the difference between giving up and hanging on. Or wash your hands and make a PBJ sandwich to give to a homeless person – the homeless have no one and are already isolated.
Let’s work together to show that humanity is not completely comprised of selfish fearful and ugly acting people. Rise up (safely and with precautions) to help those in need. Even something as small as saying “Thank You” to the bagger at the grocery store can make a difference.
Sending you all healthy vibes and well wishes.