Saturday morning, I got up early and walked into an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
Parking my truck, I paused to capture a picture of the sunrise with my phone. In the distance, an orange sliver peeked over the Gulf’s horizon, clouds softening the image. A pair of brown pelicans drifted carefree across the sky, letting only the next thermal determine their future.
So far, so good, I thought to myself.
As I approached the building, the double-glass doors opened before me, washing away the illusion of normalcy like green pollen in a spring rainstorm.
Going to a grocery store during peak times is not all that scary. I’ve survived a quick run for a box of cornbread mix on Thanksgiving morning.
Today, I immediately recognized, would be curiously different.
With lines stretching far into the aisles as when a hurricane is headed our way, people strung across the store. But something was different in the air — an urgency and uneasy sense of the unknown.
If I were a shark, I am sure I’d say I was picking up on the smell of fear.
I understand the dangers of the coronavirus. My 92-year-old dad is under lockdown in a retirement home, and my daughter manages a low immunity system because of Crohn’s Disease. I respect the medical challenges this unique strain represents, as well as my personal responsibility.
But what is the deal with everyone buying toilet paper? Nowhere in news reports does it recommend that people get as much toilet paper as possible. Did I miss something?
Turning my cart around near the empty shelves where eggs usually roost, I see the store manager moving items. His eyes are heavy, his body tired.
“Wow,” I say. “What do you think?”
“I don’t know what to say,” he says. “People are shopping like they are to going to be sequestered for a year.”
We both force a smile, each knowing all we can do is watch the behavior play itself out.
I walk the store, making notes about not only what shelves are empty, but conversely, those left relatively untouched.
Water. Individual bottles and gallons, inventory pretty much drained. Blue Bell ice cream appears to be getting drawn down. Pinto beans so cleaned out you have to read the label on the shelf to know what is missing.
On the other hand, fresh vegetable and fruit supplies appear normal, bread shelves are functional, and for some reason, beer suppliers are loading the stores up, inventory stacked as far as you can see in front of plump coolers.
I’m not sure what this says about our society. While most of us are all well-adjusted adults, I can’t help but feel our grocery shopping selections are most telling. Peeking into someone else’s cart is always a highly practiced sport at the grocery store, but this is the same concept on steroids.
I recognized exhaustion on the face of the woman checking my groceries.
I’m pretty sure all she wants is a nap.