Shortages in a time of Pandemic

The first was a toilet paper shortage. We laughed, we joked, but the toilet tissue aisles at the stores were empty.

I checked the Dollar Store. I checked the Office Supply store. I looked at the pharmacy. Fortunately, we weren’t out of TP. We had some left; I was just planning ahead. But why toilet paper? Why did people hoard toilet paper?

The most popular theory is that buying the Charmin gives people a sense of control in the era of uncertainty.

Two weeks ago, we found a huge void on the shelves of (are you ready for this?) sliced cheese. Not just any sliced cheese, but the kind we call IWS – Individually Wrapped Slices. Despite the additional packaging, even the Compostermom likes to keep the IWS cheese around for making grilled cheese sandwiches.

Last weekend the cheese shelves were still nearly empty. We picked up a small package of an organic off brand (yes, there is such a thing as organic and off brand) because Petunia needed some, and that was the only choice. Cheese? Come on, people, this is Wisconsin! There will always be cheese. No need to hoard.

Well, they hoarded toilet tissue right here in the Paper Valley itself, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

The next shortage in our stores was near the dairy aisle, but not from the dairy farms. Orange Juice. OJ. In fact, anything OJ related, like Sunny Delight, was gone or nearly so. What the heck? Did Florida lose a crop? What on earth happened here? So I googled it.

The information I found sort of followed with the TP stretch. According to business sources, people were chugging orange juice and other citrus juices to beef up their immune systems, in the hope that said immune systems would be able to fight off the evil Corona Virus.

Well, I admit, I do increase our vitamin C intake as flu season comes in. But never, ever, have I emptied the store shelves of orange juices.

Maybe I should. Hey, Chuck, did you check the frozen concentrate section?

Readers, what have you hoarded in this Time of Crisis?

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BYOB in the Time of Corona

I’m one of the original Bring Your Own Bag shoppers. When the kids were young and we were struggling to make ends meet, I bought the family’s bread from a day-old Wonder Bread store. That was my first experience bringing my own cloth bag, and it prevented many plastic shopping bags from entering my home and my garbage.

Fast forward a few years to Earth Day, 2009, when our local Sears wouldn’t let me use my Chico bag when I bought a garden shears. Not cool, Sears, especially on Earth Day. Especially when I walked through the mall to Target and got a new, free cloth bag at the Target checkout! Not cool, Sears. Not cool at all.

A few years ago, a friendly young cashier at a department store noticed my own bag and commented, “Going green this year?” This year? I refrained from telling her I’d been bringing my own bags since before she was born. (O.K. Boomer wasn’t a thing yet, but I’m sure she would have thought it.)

But now we are in the age of Pandemic 2020. The novel Corona virus is new enough that people aren’t entirely sure how it might pass from person to person. Some shoppers come home and wipe down their entire purchase with disinfectant wipes. Grocers wipe down carts between every use. And bags? Because the cloth bags may harbor germs, especially Covid 19, stores around me have been reluctant to allow customers to bring their own bags.

Our favorite supermarkets have started asking customers to bag their own purchase if we bring our own bags. The gas station convenience store is doing the same. And really? I don’t mind a bit. Chuck has a few years of grocery store work in his past, and he can bag our groceries like a pro. I don’t mind bagging my muffins or eggs or milk from the Kwik Trip, either.

Knowing the risks inspired me to wash my reusable bags more often, and that can only be good. When the farmers’ markets come back (if they come back? don’t even suggest it), I’m sure I’ll be able to balance my need to reuse bags with the vendors’ needs to be safe.

Maybe I could start a new line of bags with matching face masks. Cool, huh?

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To Mask, Or Not to Mask

subtitle: A Trip to the Post Office, featuring your future friend Grandma Daisy

It should have been simple, children. But nothing was simple in the pandemic of 2020. Not even a trip to the Post Office to mail a few checks to pay bills, bills that kept coming whether people were still working in “essential” jobs or not.

Your grandpa and I packed up the car (okay, we grabbed our stack of envelopes and I grabbed my smart phone to play Pokemon Go on the way. You haven’t heard of Pokemon Go? Well, that’s another story. So we drove the short distance to the Post Office, about a mile. Grandpa Chuck dropped the letters in a mailbox outside, and I headed inside to mail a package. A Care Package of Easter candy, if you must know.

But anyway, the issue of the day was whether to cover one’s face with a surgical style mask or not. There were many who wore them in public, and many who didn’t. Some leaders in the health field said Yes Mask Yourselves and some said No Don’t Bother. Still others said Leave the Masks for the Medical Pros.

We didn’t wear masks that day.

We pulled up to the Post Office and I walked inside to mail my package. I pushed open the door and then scratched my nose – and then thought, Oh, No, What Have I Done?! How Many People Have Pushed This Very-Public Door Handle Today??!!? And Did Any of them Carry the Corona Virus? Heck with the masks, it was still the hands that carried the worst danger. I did my darndest not to touch my face again and to stay six feet away from the others in line.

I bought stamps, too. The Post Office didn’t get helpful funding in the stimulus package, so there was a movement afoot to buy stamps. We figured if enough people bought just one or two books of stamps, the USPS might stay in business. But that’s a side note.

It was about 50-50 for Masks-No Masks inside the Post Office. Clerks were not wearing masks, but they had big plexiglass shields protecting them from breathing the same air as the customers. At least two other folks in line wore masks. The woman six feet in front of me didn’t wear one, and neither did I. When I paid my bill, I noticed the clerk was wearing protective gloves. Heck, no problem. Money is known to carry germs galore on a good day without a pandemic.

I got back to the car and reached into my purse for hand sanitizer. My contact with that door was still freaking me out a little. Poor Chuck had gotten the evil eye from the driver of the car next to us, who was wearing a mask and apparently thought that everyone should. He started the car, I squirted and cleaned my potentially contaminated hands, and away to home we went.

Oh, Pokemon Go? I caught a wild exeggcute. And cute it was. Some day I’ll show you my collection of seasonal Pikachu. Now those little critters would have even looked adorable in a face mask.

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All The Numbers

At home, snuggled up safely on the couch with my laptop, watching an old Super Bowl with Amigo, the Coronavirus might as well not exist. I know we’re sheltering in place (Safer at Home), but it still feels comfortable and, dare I say, normal.

We’ve had our moments. Check dropped a salt shaker, and you know how that goes – it landed at just the right angle to shatter. And of course it was full. Three days later we finally mopped up the last of the stray salt and tiny fragments. It took several days, but we did get it done. No more worries on the salt front.

It’s all the numbers that make it real. Names of well-known people who have tested positive for Covid19 catch my attention, but it’s the totals. The news programs always have an update of the number infected (confirmed, at least) and the new number of deaths. When they bring up a map showing the spread of the virus, that scares me, too. I realize that we may be safer at home, but the world around me isn’t safe. Not yet.

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More Cancellations

The ax fell two nights ago; Amigo’s barbershop chorus fully cancelled their Spring Show. Initially they had hoped to postpone it to a date in June, and eventually they realized that wasn’t realistic. The board met, and they made the hard decision to cancel.

Amigo could have been beside himself. He didn’t fall to pieces, though. He could have, and we would have understood. In fact, I kept waking up at night, wondering if I should check on him, but…well, other mothers of young adults will understand.

In other current events, gas was $1.01 today. As usual, I glanced at the fuel gauge to see it reading firmly FULL. Amigo helped me fill up the tank a few weeks ago, and, well, I haven’t been going anywhere. Chuck goes to work, I work from home, and I’m not driving Amigo to rehearsals anymore, either. We’re hardly leaving the driveway, much less using up a tank of gas.

In the rare occurrence that I do get out of the neighborhood, I’ve noticed people taking precautions pretty seriously. Maybe it’s the fact that Wisconsin just crossed the threshold of its 100th death from the Coronavirus. Whatever the reason, the staff at Lowe’s kept their distance and wore gloves and masks as they looked for what we needed.

Walgreen’s, however, looked mobbed. I stayed in the car; Chuck went inside to pick up medication. Tomorrow, I’ll pick up Amigo’s.

Meanwhile, we’re expecting a snowstorm Sunday night. Never a dull moment, here in the time of Covid19. Never a dull moment.

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Signs of the Times

Gas station: regular unleaded, $1.18. I think: Wow. I think: I don’t need gas. I have a full tank – still. And I realize that not many need gas right now. No one is traveling, and even the daily commute isn’t happening for most of us. This low price is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Thrift stores – my favorite places to shop! – are closed up tighter than a high pitched drum. I think: Darn. I think: Well, it makes sense. They’re germ-laden places. People touch everything. I realize: I’m still going to shop thrift when this is all over, and I’m still going to wash everything I buy – sometimes twice.

Bars are closed. The streets are rather dark at night. Not that I’m out at night – but I’ve heard it’s spooky.

I’ve noticed a trend on Facebook. People are posting so that when a post comes up in the future, say, a Facebook Memory five year memory, they’ll remember what was happening in 2020. Gas prices. What’s closed, what’s open. Major Leagues Sports shutting down. How people are handling Social Distance. I haven’t joined the trend yet. I’m thinking more along the lines of “I don’t think I want to remember this stretch of 2020, at least not the sad details.”

I just want to remember enough to help my family and friends learn from this disaster so we don’t repeat it.

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Surrealism in Shopping

“Pretending life is normal; going grocery shopping” was my post on social media. Our list wasn’t terribly long, and we had Petunia’s list, too.

First surreal experience: grocery worker sanitizing carts. Stores used to make cleaning wipes available, but now they actually put a staff person in charge of wiping down each cart as it returns to the store. We grabbed two – one for our own load, and a small one for Petunia’s.

Second surreal experience: bread shelf empty. Kind of odd, really. It was only one shelf, the store brand on special. There was plenty of stock in the higher end, good quality breads and buns.

Next surreal encounter: people wearing masks. I can’t say there were a lot, but I also can’t say there were only a few. Most, but not all, were elderly. “Smart,” I thought, and then wondered if I should mask up for trips out of the house. I’m not elderly, but I am senior.

The next empty shelf observation: pastas, sauces, especially spaghetti sauces. We keep a pretty good stockpile of pastas purchased when they go on sale; most of our tomato sauces are homemade. I’m out of homemade sauce at the moment, but we still have jarred tomatoes. I can make a sauce if we need one.

That’s one of my fallback strategies and a decision-maker at the store. If we run out, can I make it? If so, I won’t worry about it. Bread; I can make it. Spaghetti sauce; I can make it. Lettuce; I can grow it, but not yet.

Oh, heck. I’m going to plant a container of lettuce seeds. When, er, If the supply chain collapses, I’ll still have bunny food.

Eggs by the dozen: sold out. We bought a package of 18; actually a better deal than the dozens. Sliced cheese; all sold out except the organic. Petunia wanted some, so I bought her a small package.

The checkout was interesting, too. Plexiglass barrier between cashier and customers. Signs on the floor “Wait Here” about 6 feet apart. Chuck had to bag our own groceries because we brought our own bags. (It’s okay; he’s good at it.)

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Corona Cooking – at home, of course

Our menus are looking more and more like midwinter comfort food or even dorm cafeteria food. Tonight it was baked macaroni and cheese – from scratch, of course. I have a sizable stockpile of various pastas, and we always have cheese. Throw in a cup of frozen peas, reach for the closest Italian season, and there it is. Comfort food, Wisconsin style.

Like a good pantry prepper, we have canned tuna. I’ve made tuna casserole recently (pasta, tuna, yada, yada, yada), and tuna salad would only work for Chuck and me. Amigo doesn’t go for cold. I got creative with the English muffins in the refrigerator, topped them with tuna and (or course) cheese, and ta-da! Tuna melts.

Last night I pulled together paninis. Sandwich ingredients, grilled with my cast iron press, and then – soup, of course. An ultimate comfort food, but instead of made from scratch, I’d picked it up at a local restaurant. Soup and sandwiches! Simple, but satisfying.

Then there was the shredded pork on a bun – with my own homemade rhubarb barbecue sauce. It makes a big batch; I put half away in the freezer for another day.

It’s not restaurant quality. It’s not even Master Chef style. But comfort is in short supply these days, and I can cook up darn good comfort in the form of lunch and supper.

Readers, what are you cooking these days?

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Dark Times, indeed.

“These are dark times, there is no denying. Our world has perhaps faced no greater threat than it does today. But I say this to our citizenry: ” Can you fill in the rest? Is it something you’ve heard recently, from a governor or, dare I suggest, a president? A world leader? None of the above.

Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister of Magic in the final book and final movies of the brilliant Harry Potter series, completes this quote by saying, “We, ever your servants, will continue to defend your liberty and repel the forces that seek to take it from you! Your ministry remains strong.”

The ending doesn’t fit our dark times quite as well, but Scrimgeour’s opening sure caught my attention. With the novel corona virus sweeping the nation and the world, our world faces a threat that certainly is greater than any we’ve faced in our lifetimes.

I can’t express hope that we’ll follow the path of Rufus the minister. After all, he was soon assassinated as the ministry fell to Lord Voldemort and his followers. We do not have the Order of the Phoenix and their magical skills on our side, but we do have science.

Science. Medical science, common sense science. As we shelter in place, let’s listen to the scientists.

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Shelter in Place continues

It was a dark and stormy morning. Rain, lots of rain. I did a rare out-of-home experience and brought Petunia her newspaper and her groceries. We unfortunately picked out the wrong kind of oranges, so I may (or Chuck) look for a time when few will be out and get the Clementines she needs from the grocery store. It’s not a hardship; it’s just a little less likely to happen right away.

I bought myself a treat for breakfast when I picked up the paper – a breakfast sandwich from the convenience store. They no longer have their coffee bar or roller grill, but still have a few hot sandwiches, individually wrapped. I gave myself a sausage, egg, and cheese croissant.

I was settled in on the couch for a Harry Potter movie marathon, with my breakfast sandwich and coffee (made at home), when the landline phone rang. It was Chuck’s mom. He’d replaced the batteries in her smoke detectors yesterday, and now one was beeping repeatedly. She couldn’t get it off the wall or get the battery out. What else could I do? I woke Chuck.

Eventually, all was well. We took care of our mothers and then ourselves. Life goes on. It’s not normal, but it’s life. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

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