Shopping like there’s no tomorrow


A Nor’easter is forecast to slam the New York area, the second such storm within a week. Many locals are still without power and reeling from the previous storm. I can’t express my sympathy strongly enough for them. Having been through several storms this winter I’ve observed the inevitable forerunner of these tempests, the run on the grocery store.

Forecasts come a few days in advance, within 48 hours we know with a degree of certainty what to expect. That’s why, 24 to 48 hours before the storm, grocery stores are filled near capacity with anxious shoppers filling their carts in a manner that would put Noah to shame. The Bailey Building and Loan has nothing on this bunch. I’m not talking about senior citizens who may have little else to do, this is a diverse section of the population, all equally aggressive. Based on their intensity I half expect a zombie apocalypse more than snow.

Milk is coveted the way gasoline was in Mad Max’s time. Shopping carts, walkers, and strollers, are weapons. Many a tiger mom has thrown her child into the fray as a human shield to get that last loaf of white bread.

The aisles are jammed, the shoppers preoccupied, inattentive and belligerent. The empty shelves intensify the frustration, damn, that last can of Chicken With Stars soup is gone! What will we have for lunch tomorrow?

The checkout lines stretch half way across to Jones Beach, this leads to crowding that makes everyone grouchier.

One takes a risk if they dare line up on a 12 items or less aisle with 13 items. Trust me, the blue hair behind you is counting what you’re putting on the conveyor belt. Go over twelve and she’ll let out a shriek that will blow out the front windows and turn cars on their sides.

Do these people ever shop, do they wait for such a dire forecast to get that can of baked beans? Baked beans are not a good idea if one’s house will be closed for several days. Do they really expect to be snowed in for an extended period? Do they have fallout shelters that need to be restocked and now is a good time? Is this a New York thing or does it happen everywhere?

In the midst of the maelstrom we find the clerks, cashiers and stockpersons. They’re a rugged, determined breed. They exhibit a professionalism of the highest caliber and rarely get sucked into the vortex of panic. They shake their heads, smile and shrug it off. You see, they know, in a few weeks, another storm will be forecast and the process will play out again.

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