Here’s your soundtrack.
I set my alarm for 7:30 this morning in order to score a fix. I was dressed within about five minutes, donned a hat in a halfhearted effort to conceal my bedhead, and made my way to our local supermarket, Food Predator. There were more cars in the lot than I expected, but I hoped my connection had been straight with me.
I had been there yesterday to pick up a couple of minor things, and when I had seen the desolation back there, I knocked on the door to the meatcutting room. A fellow came out, and I asked him when I might have the best shot at scoring some of what I needed. He said they were expecting to have a shipment come in the next morning. “If it’s on time, it’ll hit the shelves around eight. Be here then — I’d say ‘Be here before church,’ but since people aren’t going, you might want to be here early.” I thanked him.
When I got to the back of the store, where the coolers were, they were as barren as they had been the previous day, as empty as a politician’s promise. Three women stood near me, all of us with empty carts. I turned to the one nearest me. “Anything been brought out yet?”
“No,” she said, “but my sister works here and told me they thought there’d be a truck. So I’m waiting.” As was I. But I knew I’d have to — Lou had called it half a century ago:
He’s never early; he’s always late.
First thing you learn is that you’ve always got to wait.
So I did, but only for about ten minutes, when a fellow came out in his Food Predator uni, pushing a hand truck with cardboard cartons. Most had closed tops, but toward the bottom, I saw an open carton with ground beef patties, four to the styrofoam tray. “Looks like the hero of the day has arrived,” I said.
The guy used a box cutter to open the cartons, putting tubes of ground beef in the coolers. This wasn’t the stuff of parties on the Upper West Side, where it’s wasted on clowns who don’t know the difference between a barbecue and a cookout. It wasn’t the Chuck or the Round, but 73/27 was good enough for me. “I’m no hero,” the guy with the box cutter said.
“Maybe not,” I said, “But there are a whole lot of people glad to see you here. We appreciate what y’all are doing.” It sounds corny, I guess, but it didn’t feel corny when I said it.
“I’m just glad to see another day,” he said. Two African-American women a few feet away said “Amen”s to that, and one told the other that she couldn’t even visit her mom in the hospital, that visiting hours had been cancelled. I didn’t know how accurate that was — I still don’t.
I asked the boxcutter guy if he could just hand me a couple of the tubes; a sign asked customers to limit themselves to two, and I was fine with that. I got up early, but I wasn’t there to screw anyone else over. I just wanted to make my score and go home. So he handed me two 3-lb. tubes of ground beef, and I made my way toward the front of the store. I saw that the hoarders have moved on to eggs, and there wasn’t much left in the dairy section either. There were readymade breakfast pastries and such near the deli counter, and a few cans of bake-them-yourself croissants and cinnamon rolls, but I wasn’t in the market for those. Some biscuits might have been nice, but they were long gone already. I added those to my mental list of things for which to watch. I paid for my meat tubes, and came on home, stopping first to post on Twitter:
And so, having secured 6 lbs of ground beef for his family, the mighty hunter returns to his cave to finish sleeping in.
— Professor Mondo (@ProfMondo) March 22, 2020
When I woke up again, there was a reply tweet from my cousin, Jack, in Nashville:
Rest well for your expedition to the vast, open steppes of the paper products aisle, where the elusive toilet paper must be tracked for days
— Jack Dunn (@jaxin757) March 22, 2020
Later that afternoon, Mrs. M suggested that it might be wise to pick up some cans of food for the Hound of the Basketballs, so I went to the nearby rural living emporium, which is where we typically go for that. Sure enough, I got a dozen of the dog’s preferred brand.
The store was quieter than I expected it to be. From the dog food aisle, I could hear some of the baby chicks in a nearby pen. Signs discourage potential buyers from buying them as Easter gifts, but they’re always there this time of year. I took my purchase to the cashier, who was tending her station with a Clorox wipe. She said she had been doing that between customers, and that things had been crazy busy earlier in the day. Her fingers were red and chapped. “I’m glad you’re taking precautions,” I said.
“Well, I don’t want our customers getting sick, you know.” So I thanked her and left.
Since the rural living emporium is next door to WalMart, and I hadn’t been there in a few days, I thought I’d check to see if there were any biscuits. As it turned out, there were, although the meat section and such were as desolate as they had been at Food Predator.
The deli section seemed pretty well stocked, complete with the take-and-bake pizzas and the usual array of sub sandwiches. The bottled water was cleared out, but there were plenty of choices in the chip aisle, and quite a few frozen pizzas as well. I picked up a bag of tater tots because I have the appetites of a seven-year-old, and we were running low.
From there, I walked to the self-checkout, but as I stood in the queue, I saw people pushing carts with packs of toilet paper. I knew we had a few rolls at home, but not a ton, so I went to see if there were any left. There were. Limit: one package per customer. Most people were going for the packs of Angel Soft, but I opted for the house brand we typically use. The price was better, and it would likely last longer. And it was a chance for me to reply to Jack.
— Professor Mondo (@ProfMondo) March 22, 2020
From there, I got a coffee at the Sixbucks drive-thru, and hit a low-end retailer, of the sort that are accused of creating food deserts in much of the rural South. But they happen to carry a snack that Mrs. M had wanted. I went to what seemed like the appropriate section, and while they had some different products of that ilk, I didn’t see the one she had requested. So I came home, showed her what I had found, and apologized for the store’s being out of her preferred snack.
But even that had a happy ending. Mrs. M went back to the store, and sent me a text: “Seriously?” There was a picture of the stuff she had wanted. I had looked in the wrong part of the store. So I apologized again.
Hey — even mighty hunters miss their shots from time to time.