A few weeks ago I went to the grocery store late after the panic set in among us residents of Fort Worth, TX.
I was shocked to find no toilet paper and not much else.
A guy in his 20s was talking to his friend, girlfriend by his side, big pack of toilet paper under his arm:
“Hey, I’m not panic buying, but if they are, I’m going to have to! I’m going to get my stuff, by God!” he declared.
I went down another aisle to try to find something else.
Another young couple had their cart fully loaded.
“Okay, what else are we going to need before the shutdown?” the guy was asking his girlfriend.
I was already irritated. A shutdown hadn’t even been announced.
Flashback to last March when I totaled my car four days before my birthday and two days before my vacation.
I really didn’t think this birthday could possibly top that one but I was wrong.
Now since every day has become a quest for scrambling for what we need here in Tarrant County, my daily hunt for toilet paper, my usual anxiety escalated to “going through the roof” level of anxiety, this whole world where I live is surreal. Like all of ours.
At one of the grocery stores they have now put up a glass shield between the customers and the cashiers per the CDC and the employees that have been hired just to clean are doing it like crazy. Some customers are shopping in masks and gloves as one couple brings their kids in to prove to them that the store’s out of so many of their favorite things.
The kids just laugh and laugh and think it’s the funniest thing they ever saw.
I go to the hardware store and you can only enter a few at a time. There’s blue tape on the floor to keep people six feet apart as there are in many stores across the country. An employee on the sidewalk wearing a mask and gloves waves people in a little at a time. Credit card machines are being wiped down after each use. The store used to give out free popcorn but they’ve shut the machine down for now.
When I first heard the news I found out it had struck my home country of Italy where my dad’s grandparents were from. It hurt my heart to hear they had to be shut down and I’ve continued to follow this news.
After details of the virus spread, I increased my use of a coping mechanism which has always helped me with my depression:
Watching stand-up comedy. Several nights a week I’ll pick a different comic to watch and that will inspire me to clean my house, get rid of some clutter, or sometimes just get my mind off the incredibly depressing fact that I had gone to five stores that day and still can’t find toilet paper. Or witnessed more hoarding with vultures smiling from ear to ear, so proud of themselves for piling everything on so thick. That and the fact that I tried ordering toilet paper from Amazon and it was so expensive and was going to take a month to get it to me.
I have a friend who’s paycheck has been cut in half, another who may be getting laid off, my former foster dad’s hours are being cut, and one of my old boss’ businesses is suffering so he’s barely getting by. My daughter’s college has changed to remote classes.
What a way to experience your freshman year!
A young cashier at a store today kept repeatedly telling each of his customers, “Oh, I’m not worried. I’m not going to get the virus. I’m healthy and I take care of myself. I’m not going to get it.”
Famous last words, I thought.
Someone said in situations like these it makes people more kinder but I haven’t witnessed that in the stores. I have observed a competitive nature much like wolves.
My elderly mom who lives in Florida tried to order some necessities online but when she got to the end of the screen it wouldn’t take her credit card and when she called the number they wouldn’t help her. She’s already stressed out taking care of my step dad who had a stroke.
And all the people making jokes about the toilet paper shortage are probably the ones who have all the toilet paper!
The more religious people around me try to assure me it will get better but as someone who already suffers from anxiety and depression, it’s difficult.
Especially when you’re in the store, frantically searching for something, and you hear a burly guy on his phone saying, “Plug in the freezer in the garage. We’re gonna need it.”
Because God forbid if they don’t have enough to stock that extra freezer.