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Darrell Berkheimer: Shopping frustrations that we all are facing

Darrell Berkheimer
Columnist

Today’s story is about situations that all of us have experienced in recent weeks. We’ve talked about the issues. And sent emails about some of the silliness involved.

But I think we also need a permanent record in the archives about some of the disappointments and frustrations we’ve experienced during excursions for groceries.

For weeks during this COVID-19 pandemic, we were told that only medical workers, plus those already infected or exposed to the virus, needed to wear protective masks — to keep from transmitting the virus to others. But many folks acquired various masks and decided they should wear them anyway.

And then our medical experts did an about face and told us that, well, it probably won’t hurt; so maybe everyone should wear them when out in public. And Mary said I need to wear a mask when going to get groceries.

So I went to the hardware store, where none were available. I thought that surely the hardware store would have masks for sawdust, and the grinding of metals, rocks and concrete. But by then, you couldn’t buy a mask anywhere; and various people were sharing a plethora of ideas on how to create masks of every color and description.

After scrounging around in the garage, Mary found one. She said she remembered buying one or two a long time ago for something she was doing outside the house. She couldn’t recall what.

I’m the one who buys most of our groceries — at three different stores. I prefer certain items sold at certain stores for various reasons, such as price and taste, or because something is only stocked at one store. And except for midwinter, I save on gas by using my motor scooter. So it was not unusual for me to make two and three trips a week to one or two stores each time.

We also went to Costco and Walmart about every five or six weeks. That last visit was Feb. 18, almost exactly one month before Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the statewide shelter-in-place order on March 19.

But social distancing was initiated a couple weeks before that, which triggered the hoarding of grocery supplies while prompting many of us to limit our visits to places where 10 or more people gathered.

My first trip for groceries after that revealed empty shelves such as I had never seen before. We needed pasta, noodles and saltines. None were available. We didn’t need any toilet paper after the recent trip to Costco; but I noticed the store shelf was empty.

And I had not seen such a small selection of canned goods since visiting a convenience store in a tourist area at the end of the season.

Several days later, I went back to that store — but earlier in the day. I did get pasta, noodles and saltines from a meager selection; and there was still no toilet paper in sight. I checked because our neighbors said they were running low, after noticing that some of what they thought was TP actually was paper towels.

The lemon cookies that we like … all gone! Settled for some chocolate chips, only half as many for almost the same price as the lemon cookies. At least I was able to get white vinegar this time. Store didn’t have any the previous visit.

Looked for and finally spied a 2-liter bottle of ginger ale. It was at the very back of the bottom shelf near the floor. I think I got the last one.

Then I went to get ice cream. Our store of choice often advertises 2 for $6. When back home, I told Mary she could have any ice cream flavor she wants as long as it is pineapple sherbet … or pineapple sherbet … or pineapple sherbet. So I had bought some pineapple sherbet.

It’s good that Mary likes pineapple sherbet!

Mary reported she checked our TP stock to see how many rolls we had. Then she said she would make a note when she hangs a fresh roll in the bathroom — so she can see just how long one roll lasts, and then determine how many days’ supply we have.

She admitted she’s anal that way.

Notice I decided not to reveal how many rolls we have. I don’t want our garage to be burgled.

But please, somebody, help me solve the puzzle — the big mystery. Does anybody have a reasonable explanation for the hoarding of toilet paper? What rationality prompts such action?

Why would anyone come strolling out of a grocery story with a shopping cart stacked high with toilet paper — and nothing else?

And why would a grocery store allow that when the hoarding and shortage was reported a couple weeks earlier?

Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He has seven books available through Amazon. His sixth, Essays from The Golden Throne, includes 60 columns published by The Union, plus a dozen western travel and photo essays. Contact him at mtmrnut@yahoo.com.


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