Walking into the grocery store this morning I couldn’t help
but think about the basket I was grabbing to hold the two days-worth of
proteins I planned on buying (I decided on a tri-tip I’d marinate for tonight,
then some chicken parmesan that only required 
baking-off for tomorrow).

Should I wipe off the handle? Where were those little
sanitizing wipe dispenser things? Were they absent because desperate shoppers
rifled through all the wipes available over the weekend? Or perhaps a panicked
citizen swiped the whole container for personal use, since most stores claimed
“sold out” for sanitizing wipes, Purell®, and all that stuff.

I rolled the dice and just grabbed the basket bare-handed.
Easy to be cavalier about now; hopefully this continues to be the case.
However, I think I’ve at least mentally prepared for this tragedy to affect, or disrupt, daily

As I navigated the deep layout of the store I couldn’t help
but notice the produce people setting out oranges and lettuce (I didn’t,
however, pay attention to whether they wore gloves), the lady in the bulk nut
section scooping enormous quantities of cashews into an empty bin (definitely
gloves here), and other staff stocking various pre-packaged items on the 8-foot
high shelves, telling jokes to each other and generally slowly warming up for a
long Monday shift.

I knew one of the butchers. From about a decade ago. Really
weird, to be perusing the pre-seasoned-but-not-cooked filets, meatballs, and
roasts section, then have a guy look at you and just go “…hey…” in a manner
that makes evident he can’t remember my name (nor I his), but we know we hung
out quite a bit in the past through a group of mutual friends.

He’s a big guy, about 6’5”, close to 300 pounds, rocking big
70’s Harley Davidson chops and a toothy smile that would benefit from better
dentistry. A great guy, super smart and funny and kind, in contrast to his
biker-gang look. 

After about 45 seconds of tentative pleasantries as we sized
up each other’s memories and each felt a wave of relief that the other couldn’t
put the face to the name, he launches into a story about how the store got
“rocked” yesterday (Sunday). He claimed the store was officially out of toilet paper.
Toilet paper? Is there going to a continued run on disposable paper products?
Masks and gels and medicines and soaps we could understand, even food to a
degree, but the image of hordes of shoppers carrying out the biggest bags of
Quilted Northern® they could buy allowed us to realize just what hysteria
means, and what it can do.

We made it abundantly clear to each other that this comedic
interpretation of hysteria is a mechanism we both use to mitigate concern over
what is happening with this outbreak of disease. It’s the spoonful of sugar to
help reality go down. In this moment we appreciated being like-minded, and
subconsciously remembered why we were friends-by-proxy back in the day. 

That being said, as I walked away with my tri-tip and
chicken, I couldn’t help but think of his two boys and his wife, my sister and
elderly parents. Of what I know about the precautions to take now, as compared
to the possibly more dramatic precautions to take in the future.

There’s a balance and responsibility and sensitivity that
needs to be applied, case by case, over the next several weeks, as we all help
each other navigate a fast-paced, confusing, evolving landscape of change in
our lives. 

For now, I’ll continue to remind myself that, as we’re
bombarded with accurate, not-so-accurate, fully vetted, not fully vetted and
conflicting information, the best steps to take are the ones that lead to a
generous support of one another, because that’s the best way to lessen
sensations of fear and hysteria. 

And support won’t always mean making a joke about panicked
purchasing habits.

I will say I applied some Purell® to my hands when I was
back in my car. But I always do that.