Last week the local grocery store was out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes. Of course. That’s old news. Covid-19 business as usual. The new normal as pundits keep telling us.
This week they received new supplies, but when I dropped in Friday they were not only out of the infamous items, but either stripped of or light on dozens of others. Eggs were unavailable. Butter was gone except for a few pricey specialty types at $12 a pound. Yogurt was sparse and only a few gallons of milk remained. Items featured in the week’s sale flyer were nearly all gone, even when the particular sale price was nothing spectacular. Canned goods. Boxed side dishes. Disappearing.
About the only department still well stocked was produce. Nobody was particularly interested in the boxes of shiny apples, the strawberries, the salad mixes, or the melons.
I must admit that seeing so much empty shelf space rattled even well-prepared me. I can imagine how the lack of staples might hit, say, parents living (and purchasing) paycheck to paycheck.
Empty shelves can cause panic, as well as result from panic.
But so far the panic is mostly elsewhere. One of the veteran clerks told me the shelves were so bare mainly because the store wasn’t receiving its normal compliment of deliveries. It appears a large portion of our town’s usual supply of goods is being diverted to larger stores in larger cities.
That’s scary in its own right.
So far, the clerk said, everybody around here is mostly pretty mellow. I wonder how long the locals will stay mellow when, for the first time in their lives, they can’t simply walk in and pick up a carton of eggs or a box of Cheerios?
Still, it’s better than in some places. Today S. reported a rumor about out-of-staters pulling up to a grocery store in a tiny town on the Idaho-Wyoming border in U-Hauls and trying to strip it of goods. According to the rumor, the store owner made a few calls. Armed locals turned up and the out-of-state raiders went away empty.
He couldn’t verify that story (nor could I), but he did say that local authorities in his own area had issued an order allowing grocers and other retailers to prioritize county residents over out-of-area customers. The order cited incidents of abuse by out-of-area types. So word is out that such raids may be happening.
There are a lot of advantages to small-town life. But sometimes not so much.
For instance, we now see multitudes of articles online about how vulnerable elders can get groceries and prescription drugs with minimal exposure to Covid-19. But virtually every one of them applies only to people who live in civilization. There are the famous grocery chains offering “senior-only” hours and chain pharmacies or big-box stores that now deliver. If you live where chain stores exist, that’s good. If you don’t …
Still, we do have Meals on Wheels here (though those good folks must be taxed to the max already and about to be hit even harder).
And we have neighbors.
One neighbor, who I know only to speak to, made a Costco run this week and collected orders from the street, including from me. Costco is a long way off and I have a couple friends with whom I exchange Costco wish lists when somebody is making the drive. This woman is not part of that usual exchange.
But she’s kind and she probably figured everybody would be needing the infamous items.
The only thing I could think of was Kerrygold Irish butter — strictly a luxury, which I felt rather silly even asking for under the circumstances.
A few hours later, one of the woman’s young sons showed up at my door, handed me the golden package, and said his mother didn’t want money for it.
I paid anyway, of course. But in the ensuing text exchange with Mom, she was effusive in saying that she and her family would do anything — anything — for me if I were in need.
I said I’d do the same for them, even though we both knew it’s highly likely they’d never need much from me.
I’ve been spring cleaning, however, and I did send the son home with a box of once-fired brass I’ll never reload. I don’t know that family well, but well enough to know they’ll make good use of that.
Then Furrydoc texted out of the blue, offering me food from her family’s ample pantry (which I didn’t need) and dog food for Ava.
I usually try to keep two to four months supply of dog and cat food on hand, but this month I’m suddenly caught short. Amazon will no longer deliver Ava’s special food to my address. The general store in the next town hasn’t responded to my requests for them to get it. I finally placed an order online with Chewy.com, and they say they’ll send it, but they’re dealing with a huge, panic-driven backlog, and when they’ll send it is an open question.
So I took Furrydoc up on her offer of a competing brand from her clinic’s storage, and I’ll pick that up in a few days.
“Caught short” in my case means Ava still has plenty of kibble for a month, but the way things are going at the moment, a month’s supply of anything seems way too minimal.
It’s good to have friends. And even better to have one who owns a veterinary clinic. But I wouldn’t want to be in Furrydoc’s shoes right now.
People — clients, apparently — have already stolen sanitizing products out of her exam rooms. The feds have just imposed a sweeping family leave law for employees, effective April 2 that will complete the destruction of many of the smallest businesses — willful, conscious destruction that state diktats have already begun. (After paying out of pocket to cover the new employee “rights,” businesses will have to hope they survive long enough to collect reimbursement via tax credit.)
Now Furrydoc wonders whether she’ll be “allowed” to stay in business as more shutdown orders are imposed.
As a vet, she’ll probably be decreed “essential” and therefore exempt from closing. She’s certainly essential to me. But she still faces interesting times.
Another friend has already told me that, between the pandemic restrictions and the new leave law (which hands huge privileges to employees at the expense of their employers, no matter how small and marginal the employers may be) he’ll probably shutter his business permanently this year.
And now I’m watching this area’s 14 precious restaurants and shiny new brew pubs as they cut their hours, cut their payrolls, attempt to survive on take-out alone, or close altogether (which a couple have and more will).
I love this community and I know that what’s happening to these little towns is merely typical, a sign of the times, no worse (and in many ways far better) than what’s happening elsewhere in the world.
It could be worse. It will be worse, as politicians flex their powers and the disease lends itself to panic. We’re probably looking at depression now, not mere recession. Not to mention enormous, if not hyper, inflation.
With every politician on the planet now successfully pushing every conceivable statist agenda through the fog of mass hysteria and demands to “do something,” we face long, long, very long term consequences in tyranny and economic ruin.
It’s getting bad for nearly everyone, everywhere. I know that. It will get worse. I feel for all who are suffering and will suffer more in the future — especially those who may be spared the disease but who will struggle and even die from government-imposed poverty and despair in the coming years.
But this is my community, my home, my place in the world. I love this place with heartfelt passion. I cherish its exceptionally good people, my friends and neighbors. And I take very, very personally all the harm that’s being inflicted right here.