March 14th, 2020

“Panic is highly contagious, especially in situations when nothing is known and everything is in flux.” – Stephen King

“Fear is the mind-killer.”
― Frank Herbert , from the novel “Dune”

Woodman’s is a massive grocery store in Oak Creek. It’s size can be overwhelming. A person can find nearly anything in there, assuming that person doesn’t get lost while doing so.

When I go to Woodman’s, it is generally during a slow time of day. I go there when all the other retirees go. We usually have the place all to ourselves.

But not yesterday.

Yesterday the parking lot was packed with cars. The store itself was jammed full of people pushing carts that were stuffed with everything imaginable. It was a chaotic scene.

I had gone in there innocently seeking toilet paper. I had not heard about any kind of shortage. I just figured that I would buy some. That was a mistake.

Woodman’s has an aisle devoted to toilet paper, paper towels, facial tissue, and the like. It also has a tower of toilet tissue near that aisle. This mountain of paper products is twice my height on a normal day. Yesterday it had completely disappeared. There were only empty wooden pallets left on the floor. Every roll of toilet paper was gone. It was the same in the aisle. The shelves were completely empty.

Two Woodman’s employees were feverishly ripping open boxes of toilet paper, as anxious customers hovered near them. I asked one of the workers if I could grab a package of four rolls from the cardboard box. He glanced nervously at me and said, “Yeah, sure.”

I should have taken more.

I don’t get it. I assume that this shopping frenzy had to do with the Coronavirus scare. However, I can’t quite understand how toilet paper plays into this scenario. Is one of the symptoms of the disease diarrhea? Will infected persons need to wipe their asses constantly? What the hell is going on?

I left the store in a hurry. Mobs make me edgy. Some of the folks in Woodman’s were not quite right. Many of them had that look in their eyes. You know, the look that says they are expecting the End Times to come at any moment. Apparently, the Apocalypse involves some heavy shit. Therefore, they need to stock up on toilet paper.

The scene in the grocery store reminded me of how things work here just prior to a major blizzard. (I live in Wisconsin. We have major blizzards on occasion). Before a big snowfall, people raid the stores, just in case the power goes out, or the snowplows can’t dig out the streets, or the shops are closed, or whatever. They do the paleolithic hunter-gatherer thing for legitimate reasons. They know that they might be shut in for a while. It mostly makes sense. Well, except for the fact that most of the hunting and gathering happens in the liquor department. Emergency supplies always include cases of beer.

Yesterday’s chaos had nothing to do with anything that was real. It was all just a subtle form of hysteria. I mean it could have been much worse. I mean nobody was shooting somebody else over a roll of shit paper. I could imagine it getting to that point. The thin veneer of civilization was close to being torn away.

Perhaps I exaggerate. I often do that. Maybe not this time.

Let’s look at the stock market.

Holy fuck. What a disaster. It dropped 20% (or more) within a week. I care about this. I have a 401K, and it depends on the market. My currently comfortable existence is in jeopardy.

Okay, I know that sounds really selfish. It is. However, if I go down, lots of others go down too. I am taking care of other people. If I am broke, then nobody cares for them. Honestly, I don’t think it will get to the point where we are all penniless, but it will get bad.

I have often thought that things were crazy, and they couldn’t get any crazier.

I have always been wrong about that.





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