I’m better prepared this time. Not like the last time, when I was caught napping, flat-footed, in Walmart, still telling myself this was all being blown just a little out of proportion, people were getting crazy, that the old normal wasn’t over until there was no food on the shelves, or online, when I roiled past the toilet tissue aisle and there was none. NONE. No toilet tissue. That was when I knew it was serious. If not the virus, then the public concern, the panic.
It didn’t matter if the pandemic was serious, or real, or especially dangerous to me. It mattered that enough of the public was taking it seriously enough to have cleaned out the toilet tissue in stores throughout Kansas City, Missouri. And there wasn’t any readily available for maybe a couple of months. I was blessed enough to find a four-pack here and a six-pack there.
But, I was caught flat-footed there, unprepared, exposed, clueless. Looking stupid when it seemed like the rest of the world was clued-in and knew what was up, was intelligent, wise, and pragmatic enough to hoard their supplies while they were still abundant and available. I was the knucklehead who had waited until the last minute, who hadn’t quite abided by my mother’s advice over the years, to stock up on canned vegetable and the like, so I would have something set by in case of emergencies (like snowstorms). I had a decent amount of canned goods in the house, a first aid kit, candles, matches, flashlights, and so on. But, when I was getting that modest hoard together, I was imagining a few snug days in my apartment until the snow began to melt or we were dug out, a below-zero weekend or two where I decided to stay home instead of going shopping.
I wasn’t seeing a pandemic.
I was imagining people cut off from functioning grocery stores, NOT grocery stores with empty shelves, dwindling supplies, panicked, irrational shoppers. I was not imagining the fear, anxiety, mania, and anger of a pandemic. People feel threatened breathing fresh air, stopping for a short casual conversation, even standing six feet away. (No one does that anymore, stop for a conversation)
I didn’t have enough of anything. No beans or rice. No coffee beans. Not enough cooking oil, or canned vegetables; I should have had five times as much, easily. No extra shampoo, soap, or dish detergent. I hadn’t read enough about prepping for emergencies. I didn’t have face masks or hand sanitizer (I bought a dozen bottles on Amazon as soon as they became available. I needed extra laundry detergent. I had no rubbing alcohol or peroxide.
I was just unprepared, determined to see the next public health scare through with grace and blinders, and not get caught up in the emotions, not let it affect my life anymore than was unavoidable. The videos of Australian shoppers scrapping over toilet paper confused and disturbed me. I always thought of Australians as polite, even-tempered people, but maybe that is a stereotype.
So, I am surprised to find myself caught slightly off guard at the impending second shutdown, whatever. The virus infections are on the uptake. Parents are stocking up, preparing for their children to be back home in late-November, early December. People are panicking again, flooding stores, stocking up on anything they can think of – frozen pizza, beans, meat, pasta, anything – bracing for the second wave of the pandemic and another shutdown.
And, I honestly didn’t expect it, again. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the panic is delayed in the Midwest, maybe it’s because it was so peaceful and plentiful when I went to the store. I didn’t see it coming. And, it’s here.
It’s been here this entire time and I…on some level…I am still napping.
And, I still feel unprepared.
Who knows? It might not be as bad the second this time around. Right?