grocery shopping before a storm

I read this funny article in the Boston Globe last week, written by Globe Columnist Sam Allis, called Grocery gridlock: Stuck at the intersection of storm panic and holiday stress about grocery shopping in December, on a weekend, right before a snowstorm.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Inside, the place was teeming with grown men and women dashing around the store like road runners, emitting stress every step of the way. They carried a sense of urgency reminiscent of the Running of the Brides at Filene’s Basement. If they didn’t get out fast, they reasoned, the authorities would find their bleached bones in the spring.

I vectored over to the deli section. This is the heart of the matter. This is where people in line watch their lives dribble away. This is where you find out whether any of that Zen stuff about acceptance is worth one Tic Tac.

The crowd was patient but tense. Men shifted their weight from one leg to the other. It was unnervingly quiet.

I noticed a guy named Bob Boynton reading a tabloid he had spread across a shelf of cheese nearby. I asked him how long he had been there, and he said close to 15 minutes. I glanced at his ticket for the deli. It read 307. I looked up at the electronic scoreboard on the deli wall and saw 281.

A lunatic friend of mine was also there Friday morning, I learned. In a separate countdown, his ticket read 337 when the scoreboard read 275. Let’s be clear here. There is nothing in the deli section worth waiting that long for. You come home empty-handed, claim they ran out of the potato salad, and hunker down for Defcon 1 if that doesn’t fly.

Bob informed me this was not the worst jam he’d faced there. That would be a Saturday after Thanksgiving some time ago. A chill came over him as he said, voice rising: “I’ll never go again. Never.”

If you have the time, check out Grocery gridlock. It is quite amusing.

This article brings back memories of my shopping excursion the morning of Hurricane Iniki years ago. I woke up that morning to the sound of sirens blaring. When I first heard that all schools were canceled, I was thrilled. That feeling only lasted a few seconds as the next thing announced was that a hurricane was headed our way and was set to hit later in the day.

I was sent to the store by friends I was staying with while they got the house prepared and filled containers of water. There was barely any food left on the shelves by the time I arrived. The lines were so long that they started at the back of the store. I was amazed at how many people I ran into that I knew that morning. It was one shopping experience I will never forget and hopefully one I will not have to repeat.

Have you ever had a crazy grocery shopping experience?

13 thoughts on “grocery shopping before a storm

  1. After Hurricane Fran hit my area, a bunch of friends were at my house because I had power and they didn’t. We learned that the mayor had declared a curfew of 7 pm because of all the downed trees and power lines, so we raced to the grocery store to buy beer and it was a mad house. Everyone else was buying beer too – it was funny! We just barely made it home by the curfew.
    It’s a big joke around here about how any forecast of snow sends people into panic grocery shopping. The stores will run out of milk and bread, and then we will get about two flakes of snow!


  2. Oh, people go *insane* around here when there’s snow in the forecast! We just figure its a good excuse to unearth the treasures from the back of the freezer and pantry.


  3. G: Thanks for the laugh. I can personally vouch that he is not lying – having to avoid that entire block on that day. People still fear, if they were around and are old enough, the results similar to the Blizzard of 78 when cars were stuck on Route 128 and you were in your homes snowed in for days – when you were able to finally walk to the market, shelves were empty. Yup, panic definitely still sets in – it’s kinda comical. M


  4. Annie, it is interesting how we panic so easily. When I was shopping the morning of Hurricane Iniki, I called my friend on the pay phone outside (pre cell phone days) and asked what I should get since most of the things on the list were already gone. I was told to get bottles of wine!
    Amy, I always find some interesting items in my cabinets also. I have to keep my freezer closed though…no snow to set it in to keep things frozen here.
    menehune, I was living in the dorms at Worcester State during the blizzard of 78! What a storm that was!! We survived on soup that week since they ran out of food at the campus cafeteria. i remember walking (long walk) down to the grocery store a few days later and the shelves were still empty. Roads were closed to everyone except for emergency workers and doctors/nurses. The snow was incredible though. We had so much fun even though we were pretty hungry that week.


  5. This reminds me a bit of the last few days of 1999, when everyone was panicked about Y2K and what might happen if computers all of the world were frozen at the same time.
    It was such a big news story (at least in Ottawa, where I was covering government preparations) and I remember lineups of people taking lots of cash out of ATMs in case the Interac system froze up; people laying in supplies of water and flashlight batteries in case electrical systems all crashed.
    Fortunately, nothing like that happened, but the few days before were a bit crazy!


  6. Sandra, I remember getting so irritated trying to fill up a one gallon jug because the filtered water machines were all out of water due to the big rush on water right before Y2K. I had forgotten all about this until you just commented on it :) The other thing people buy in bulk when in a panic here is toilet paper.


  7. G; My fiance made the same comment about people stocking up on toilet paper in Hawaii – go figure! Now, wine I can see, but toilet paper? M PS: Boston State grad here.


  8. No crazy grocery shopping experience in the USA but back home in Puerto Rico we did many last minute shopping trips before the arrival of a hurricane. The last one I remember was in 1979, the year my son was born. Hurricane David was approaching the Virgin Islands and we went shopping for food, batteries and wood panels to cover the windows. We found everything we needed except the beer and rum necessary to survive the coming days without power and water. My best memory of the days without power was planning our first camping trip to Europe by candlelight, reading Let’s go Europe and tracing a route with a Nat’l Geographic Atlas.


  9. We are forecasted to be hit with a blizzard tonight – so many people are cancelling their New Year’s Eve plans and staying home (which in my mind is more fun anyway…am not so much of a “night on the town” gal anymore, although occasionally it’s fun) Fortunately we’re going to Valerie’s house so will just crash there if the storm materializes as bad as expected.
    Have a happy, healthy, and safe New Year!! It’s been fun getting to know you this year. I look forward to sharing more of your life on your blog in 2009!


  10. María, planning a trip by candlelight is a great way to pass the time. Good thing it was back before the internet was around :) Happy New Year to you too!!
    Anne, hope there is no major damage/power outages. That is smart to stay plan being where you might not need to drive, especially on New Year’s Eve. I have enjoyed this last year getting to know you also :) I wonder what fun adventures we will all experience in the coming year? I hope for only good things for everyone!!


  11. Hi again,
    I was reading through this older post of yours and couldn’t help notice a thing we have in common… I too was in Boston during the big blizzard! I was a student at BU then. Everything shut down for days; we picked the Store 24 shelves clean. But what I remember best of all was being able to walk all the way across the frozen Charles River. Great memories, and small world…


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