Post #576: Shopping report CORRECTED

Posted on March 27, 2020

Edit:  Don’t you just hate it when reality spoils attempted humor?  Turns out, my neighbors down the street went to Safeway later in the AM, and … bananas were in stock.  Apparently, I’m just going too early to hit the store when it’s optimally stocked.  I shall adjust my routine accordingly. 

I went to the Pan Am Safeway around 7AM today (3/27/2020).

I have never seen so many people, working so hard, to stock the shelves.  At a guess, there were more employees in the store than there were customers.  And they were all in constant motion.

 I’ve never seen so many aisles packed with boxes of stuff, waiting to be put on the shelves.

So, as far as I can tell, there are only two things wrong with the food supply chain in the USA.  One is the customers, and the other is restaurants.  Customer behavior, I have yet to see any proposed solution to that.  I have already discussed this in Post #563.  Haters gonna hate, hoarders gonna hoard.  But a second, true problem with the supply chain is that so many people were getting such a large share of their calories via restaurants (and fast food and take-out), that suppliers are struggling to divert food from that stream (where it, e.g., comes in inappropriate sizes and packaging) to the grocery-store stream.

A few items were out of stock, and others were thin.   But, e.g. they had some eggs.  Not a lot, but some.  That’s better than my last trip.  Milk was skimpy-to-nonexistent.   Beans and rice were still depleted.  Which struck me as oddly pedestrian, for this area.  I momentarily found myself grousing because they didn’t have the cut of chicken I was after, which clearly marks me as the pampered suburbanite that I am.  I saw no shortages on any other cuts of meat.

But, yes, we have no bananas. And no toilet paper.  I’ve been trying to think of a euphemism for that that would scan, in that old song, but most of the ones I’ve come up with so far are not family-friendly one.  All the non-obscene ones are pretty lame.  (Yes, we have no butt-wipers, we have no butt-wipers today).  (Also, that song really didn’t age well.  You have to wonder how it became such an American classic.)

I also went to Fresh Market, stalking the elusive banana.  They had, I think, three, in very bad shape.  I wasn’t quite desperate enough to buy them.  But, to the point, they were almost perfectly stocked.  Except for bananas and TP.  If you are short of staples, give them a try, e.g., plenty of rice, beans, etc.

Of note, there was a guy in what I’m pretty sure was a Fairfax Fire and Rescue jacket walking into Safeway as I was walking outHe was wearing an N95 mask (clearly identifiable via the valve in the center).  My guess? They are the essential personnel.  I bet they’ve been told to mask up if they are going into public places.  Alternatively, maybe they just have a better grasp of how serious this is.  Either way, I think we should all take a clue from that. 

I was wearing a mask.  Man, that’s a pain in the butt when you wear glasses.  But from now on, that’s what I’m doing.  I also:  washed hands before, upon return, and after putting groceries away.  Used a touch-screen stylus (worked perfectly).  Kept my distance, kept my voice down, didn’t talk unless necessary.  Used pieces of paper towel to hold the cart handle, and to open the dairy case.

Mainly, I’m masking up because something about the spread of this does not quite add up, to me (Post #573).*  And, because, empirically, as far as I can tell, the only first-world countries that have successfully suppressed this, so far, appear to Asian countries.  And there, as I understand it, social norms enforce public mask use during epidemics.  There, it’s considered polite to mask up in public.  I think we should learn from that. 

* Although, upon reflection, a substantially longer lag time in testing and reporting in the US, compared to China, would also explain the lack of an inflection point so far. My calculation was based on a median of four days from symptom onset to reporting of test results, in China, from the previously-discussed WHO report.  Plausibly, that might have reflected a test-all-suspects policy.  Here, because, for whatever reason, we have not adopted that policy, we’re probably a) starting testing at a later stage of disease, and b) rumors are that, in some cases, it’s taking forever to get the results back.

Couldn’t hurt.  Might help.  I realize that only fools disagree with the US CDC.  But I still say, wear ’em if you’ve go ’em.