Shopping for the End Times

By David Grima | Mar 19, 2020

Well, l lost my bet.

I assumed the Independent Republic of St. George would be the first community around here to set up border control checkpoints and prevent strangers from entering its territory in a time of disease. Instead, it was North Haven.

Who could have guessed?

From what I can gather, they blew up the bridge between Rockland and North Haven Monday afternoon. North Haven Commando Unit No. 1 claimed responsibility for this outrage.

Just imagine. An island with one gas pump decides to seal itself off from the known universe.

* * * * *

The blatant theft of asterisks from this weekly column continued unabated, last week. For every five I gave them they stole two and only printed three.

What gives? Is the Courier under the strange illusion that asterisks somehow ward off the dreaded coronavirus?

Silly people.

* * * * *

Last Saturday afternoon, I ventured out from the concrete towers at the foot of Mechanic Street, where I am forced to live, and went forth in search of groceries. The parking lot at Hannaford was jammed with vehicles, so I parked on the roof of a Mercedes Benz.

Inside the store, nothing seemed too bad at first sight. But soon I came upon the looting and pillaging, which I must admit was being carried out only by a small number of shoppers. But their combined effect over the weekend was as though locusts had gone through the corn patch.

Just in front of me at the milk cabinet, a woman with twice as many groceries stacked in her cart as the cart could handle, came to a halt as items began to fall off her mobile stack of goodies.

As I bent to help pick her them up, I was overcome with an irresistible attack of basic journalism. The question leapt from my lips before I could intervene and keep quiet.

“Do you mind me asking why you are buying so much stuff?” I asked before I could help myself.

“Coronavirus!” she replied, seeming almost as surprised at her own answer as she was at my question. She rushed to explain. “I have my mother at home and she’s sick, and I am going to go home and shut ourselves in.”

Suddenly, it all made sort of sense.

Until this moment, I assumed the toilet-paper hoarders, bread hoggers and Kleenex harvesters were reacting to our public health crisis instinctively, their behavior based reflexively on some primitive response to the only thing that normally sends people to the supermarkets to strip shelves bare: they were acting as if there were a blizzard in the weather forecast.

Not really knowing what to do in this unique situation, they were acting on autopilot as if there were a snow storm due.

But this shopper with the mile-high grocery cart made me see that it goes deeper than that. It wasn’t some sheep-like response at all. Sheer terror of not being able to buy something – anything – seized her troubled mind and she was responding to an abnormal fear in the only normal way possible.

* * * * *

I have decided to quarantine myself in my concrete towers (see above) but not all the time. Only when I am asleep.

* * * * *

My question about the hoarder-stripper-shoppers is this; what will they do when they have chowed, wiped, and sneezed themselves through the 500 pounds of groceries they each stuffed into their carts last weekend?

For if their goal is to hide away from the common herd like a bunch of survivalists, then how will they manage to replenish their supplies when they have emptied the last cans of kitty food?

This is really just a version of the question I always asked myself about the other kinds of survivalists, the Apocalypticals, the ones who were so determined to outlast a thermonuclear holocaust that they built air-raid shelters and stocked them with hundreds of gallons of dehydrated water.

What were they ever going to do when they ran out of stuff? They were never going to be able to stash away enough supplies to last until the nuclear winter was over and life had begun to return to some kind of normal, were they? That would have taken centuries.

Likewise, what about the people who have been squirreling away cases of food and ammo so they can get through a zombie invasion? For various technical reasons, it’s no good waiting for the zombies to die. What is their plan when their food runs out and the zombies are still wandering around town? Demand a shopping truce?

But I do understand the attraction of insanity. I understand the sheer adrenalin rush that some people might experience by shopping for the End Times, as many were doing last weekend.

The only so-called rational explanation I can think of is that the End-Time shoppers probably expect to be the only ones left.

By the time they consumed all the stuff they can possibly manage to hoard, they must expect to be the sole remaining people on the planet. Then they assume they will be able to get back onto the streets and parade around in complete virus-free safety.

Naturally, their first stop will be the supermarket where they can stock up again on all the stuff… Oh no! Suddenly, this is the point at which their plans for survival will be revealed as a mistake of epic proportions.

For by now the supermarkets will be either empty, or their shelves full of rotting groceries, or their aisles littered with the unrighteous (and rather smelly) dead.

What kind of world will our hoarder-stripper-shoppers then inherit? A howling wilderness that they have neither the health, energy, or inclination to repopulate. They will simply be the last ones to understand they are the end of the line.

This is the worst scenario imaginable for our over-zealous shopping neighbors. But there is another, kinder and gentler, outcome that I suppose might be possible.

It could be that, by the time the hoarder-stripper-shoppers have eaten their last can of cat food in their make-shift bunkers, and are beginning to starve to death while sheltering in place, their more normal neighbors will start coming by and asking if they need anything from the supermarket.

The Apocalypse will not have stricken them from the face of the Earth after all, but rather will have encouraged them to find ways to help.

Pick your preferred ending, dear reader. Then go live accordingly.

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at

Comments (2)
Posted by: Helen H Silk | Mar 20, 2020 11:41

As far as the food/supplies situation is concerned, my fervent wish is that folks would take a deep breath and buy what they actually need.  I live in TN and work for a Kroger owned dairy processing plant.  We're producing plenty of milk and our stores are receiving  most other things.  One of the store clerks told me that trying to keep shelves stocked is impossible.  She said the trucks come in and they stock overnight, but every morning at least 50 folks show up when they open  and a short while later they're back to empty shelves.  If the situation there is similar, try to give your stores time to catch up.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Mar 19, 2020 23:37

Thanks for your words of hope, David. Needed them after reading this:

"Well worth giving this piece on the transfer of 500,000 coronavirus testing kits from Italy to the US a read, from the Italian newspaper La Repubblica which raises concerns over the deals behind sales of essential equipment.

The whole world says it’s a war. And for the first time in history it seems to be everyone against everyone, without any alliances. Each nation thinks for itself, using every means to guarantee the winning weapons against the virus: swabs, masks, respirators. So the United States managed to buy half a million kits to detect the infection in Brescia. And they moved them to Memphis in a military plane."

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