It’s 9:30 at night, and I’m grocery shopping.
It’s my first real shopping trip since the coronavirus panic started to flare up here in the midwestern US. I’m not sure what to expect, other than a dearth of toilet paper.
The Meijer parking lot is fairly thinned out by this point, so at least the store shouldn’t be too crowded. On the ground by my car is a magnetic bumper sticker, which advising “Honk if you need to POOP!” If America ever really goes post-apocalyptic, we’re going to have some weird detritus littering the scene.
I soon find there will not be much selection when it comes to meat. Lunch meat is almost completely cleared out, as are the fresh beef, pork, and chicken sections. My options appear to be boneless pork shoulder ribs, a large stack of cow femurs, and an $8 sirloin. I decide to take my chances with the pork ribs, and hope that I can figure out how to prepare them.
My work friend has taught me that you can drink a two-dollar bottle of Naked juice and pretend it is a fully nourishing meal. I grab a few of these, and some Lean Cuisines for good measure. There are also plenty of bananas, still. Only green ones, but I prefer them that way anyhow.
It’s interesting to see what people are panic buying, but it is also interesting to see what nobody is panic buying. Nobody, for instance, appears to be buying Trolls-themed (or possibly flavored) Oreos. Nor is Mountain Dew in immediate danger of running out. All the flavors of regular Yoplait are gone, except for red raspberry, of which a dozen tubs remain. I wonder if anyone is doing market research right now. I also wonder if the world knows something about red raspberry that I don’t.
Sugary cereals, chips, cookies…all of these are safely stocked on the shelves. It’s as if the country has known all along which foods are necessary and which are not, but forgot until reaching the point of having to make a choice. Maybe there’s hope for us yet.
Checking out, I notice that one of the Naked juices is covered in sticky goo. Rationally, I realize this is just juice from some other bottle that got ruptured in transit. Irrationally, I am suddenly convinced the goo is somehow full of coronavirus. I consider leaving it at the checkout aisle, for someone to put back later. But with the store so understaffed, it could sit there at room temperature for hours, maybe days, and is bound to go bad. Also, I see no reason why I should make someone else touch this bottle that is definitely definitely contaminated with coronavirus. I buy the juice, but keep it in a separate bag. Killing a sea turtle tomorrow to save a grocery store employee today. This is just one example of the sorts of moral quandaries we face in these dark days.
On the way out, I pass a couple wearing breath masks and a young woman wearing latex gloves. I nod, and they nod back in return. A silent acknowledgement that we’re all in this together. And that, for the most part, we’re going to be okay. I consider my shopping purchases. I didn’t find everything I was looking for, but I found enough. Sometimes all we need is enough.