I originally wrote this piece five days before the first lockdown in Southern California started, although by that point my theater company had already shut down and people were just waiting for the pandemic to hit. The lockdown began one year ago yesterday, March 20, 2020, so I thought that this was a good occasion to take a look back at where things were just before everything changed.
I’m actually writing these words a little over a week before you’ll read them — hey, that’s how it goes when you get ambitious and want to publish every day. Still, this past week has been… weird, and I can only assume that the week between when I wrote this and when you read it will be equally weird.
I do my regular grocery shopping on Thursday nights. This came about because at the previous full-time job I had, we got paid every other Thursday, so it was just a natural thing to do a weekly budget two weeks at a time, and get groceries for the week on the evening of payday and a week later.
It was also great because I’d go to the store after 8 p.m., so there’d hardly ever be crowds, and I don’t buy a whole lot because, honestly, I’m a cheap date. That’s because ever since the events of August 2016, I’ve been cooking my lunch for the week at home, usually on Sunday afternoons, so that I could avoid processed and pre-packaged foods, and control the nutritional content. In my case, this largely means cutting down the sodium.
After I was laid off from that job because the company went tits up, I moved into the land of living off of savings and unemployment, but kept the same schedule. And even as I moved into my very part-time job with ComedySportz LA, with paydays on the 10th and 25th, and then into my new full-time gig in the wonderful world of Medicare (which really fascinates me) with Paul Davis Insurance Services, where payday is every other Friday, I kept the exact same schedule. Grocery time on Thursday night.
And it worked out well and regularly right up until Thursday, March 12, and then I had flashbacks to the day the L.A. Riots started, when scared whypipo also stripped the grocery stores bare for no damn good reason. Those MoFos stocked up for months when it turned out that the city was only under martial law for a week.
So, anyway, I headed out to my regular Ralphs at my regular time that Thursday only to find that the normally easy parking lot resembled any Trader Joe’s anywhere on a normal day. So I noped out of that one and headed to my second choice because it’s not as fancy even though it’s the closer Ralphs, managed to find a spot in the parking lot, headed inside, saw the length of the lines and, again, thought, “Okay. I’ll try later.”
About an hour and a half later, I came back, and while the lines weren’t as long, a quick stroll through the store showed me that the meat department, canned goods, paper goods, and beverages had been stripped bare. What was the point? Despite my short list, I wasn’t going to find anything, so I got the hell out of there.
Friday night: No need to report to the theater to work because they’ve cancelled all remaining shows for March, but there was a check waiting for me, so I headed out, driving by the aforementioned down-market Ralphs only to realize, “Nope. It’s still crazy.” Got my check and then swung by a stand-by market that shares my first name. The lines weren’t as bad, but… all the same departments stripped to the shelves.
I headed down the street a couple of miles to a market that almost shares my first name, only to find almost the same situation. I was literally only able to find one item on my shopping list there.
Fortunately, because for some unknown reason Ralphs abruptly discontinued carrying the particular types of dog food that my Sheeba demands, I had already changed to a PetSmart that is a mere block from home, and they have not been subject to the same panic buying.
So my fur kid gets to eat better than I do.
Or not. I wound up inadvertently stockpiling enough canned tuna to last through a few weeks, but I also did it over a few weeks because Ralphs has been having this insane sale in the first place — 4 cans for $4.00 — but then a coupon on top of that for $2.00 off 4 cans. Or, in other words, 8 cans for $4.00, half a buck a can. Since the stuff has a pretty long shelf-life, I figured, okay, why not?
And all of this was entirely before Storpocalypse hit. Or is that Bumwadgeddon? I’m not sure what all this panic buying has been dubbed yet. All I know is that I’ve got three weeks’ worth of tuna in the cupboard. Oh yeah — since Ralphs likes to occasionally send me coupons for a free jar of the brand of mayonnaise that is not my first choice, I have two of those in the fridge.
Tuna salad for days, y’all! And I already had two weeks’ of bum-wad on hand. So this panic didn’t really affect me other than the inability to buy meat.
That was kind of a problem because my tradition, between my Saturday day job and Saturday theater job, was to go get nine ounces of ground sirloin at Ralphs and bring it home to make an amazing cheeseburger.
But that option was taken off the table since the meat departments in every grocery store I went to were completely empty. On a hunch on the way home from work on a Saturday, I stopped by a small carnicería in Van Nuys. Not only did they have plenty of meat, but unlike at Ralphs, I got to watch the butcher grind it for me, and it was basically the same price.
So try those little neighborhood mom and pop places if there’s something you can’t find at the big store — just don’t buy more than you need right now, but do give them the business. And they probably have toilet paper, but don’t be greedy, okay?
And FFS, don’t panic. The world isn’t ending. China already got this, and the U.S. may have acted quickly enough. And the economy may actually be fine, just like it has been after other nation-wide disasters.
There is nothing to fear but fear itself, and this is a line from the inaugural address of one of our best presidents ever. So… stop hoarding out of fear. Calm down, take a deep breath, and look at the actual statistics.
There’s no damn reason at all that you need three 24 packs of TP, 6 cases of bottled water, 18 cans of soup, a shit-ton of other canned goods, and enough bread to prove that your whining about being gluten-free was absolute bullshit.
The next several weeks will be crucial, and we may all wind up stuck at home, so yes, by all means make sure that you have two to three weeks worth of food stocked up. But you don’t need three months worth or enough for a household five times the size that yours is.
Take every precaution you need to, but don’t go crazy with the panic buying. You’re just hurting your friends and neighbors by taking more than you need.
Remember: six feet apart, and wash your hands often.