Supermarket Stress


This Pennsylvania grocery store’s shelves are becoming a common sight in stores all across the country, as panic buying due to COVID-19 continues (photo courtesy of AP News).

Hannah Smith, Editor-in-Chief

Everyone by now has had the insane experience of going into a grocery store and seeing the shelves empty. Rows of bread with only the worst kinds left, the milk shelves with only a few options there and the most ominous of all: the completely empty selves where the toilet paper used to be. I never realized that there were holes drilled out in columns along the shelves. Or that they were this really foreboding cream color. It was empty and blank. 

When the coronavirus hit the U.S and school was cancelled, I didn’t feel the panic that seemed to be affecting everyone else. I didn’t feel the fear or the immense anxiety. Really, the only thing I felt was this overwhelming relief. I don’t think I make it any big secret that school is not my favorite place and with the weeks counting down until finals there just seemed to be too much to do. I had a million things swirling in my head and this anxiety that wouldn’t leave my stomach; but with three easy words the Governor had taken that all away. 

I felt like I had won some sick game. As if Rumplestiltskin had come to life and I had won, but at a large cost. I began to wait for the panic to set in. I waited to feel this fear that everyone else was articulating. Don’t get me wrong, things did change; we stayed home more and we took all the precautions we needed, but I never felt that panic, that fear. I only felt different, not bad. 

The only thing we weren’t willing to sacrifice was our family, my parents and I, all going to the grocery store together. Maybe this is the wrong thing to do, maybe only one of us should have gone in, but that’s not really us. Grocery shopping is one of my favorite times of the week. It’s a time to plan for the week to come, but it’s also two-ish hours of just me and my parents hanging out, talking and enjoying each other’s company. 

I had heard the stories. I had seen the tweets. I thought I knew what was coming. I thought I was prepared. But as we walked through the door of admittedly not our ‘normal’ Walmart, my heart dropped. 

It’s really terrifying seeing this place, that I have so many happy memories in, being ravaged by people who are scared. I was scared. If this many people were freaking out this close to my home, maybe I should be freaking out too. Maybe I should be hoarding the toilet paper as well. Maybe they had read something I hadn’t. What did these people know?

The room was tilting off its axis. I was moving just a few seconds behind them all. I was just a step behind the entire way through the store. I could feel everyone’s anxiety streaming off of them as if it was a physical thing. Mothers could push carts with the sheer force of their fear. Fathers were stacking cans into their cart like it was cracking dam. I could see it all and it wasn’t through a screen or through the lens of someone else; it was through my own eyes (or glasses). 

There is no happy way to spin this; stores, weeks later, still cause me anxiety. There is still a tremendous amount of fear and trepidation that smears through my happiness there. But I think that’s what this time is meant to show me. Just because there is anxiety and fear that doesn’t make a situation bad, and it doesn’t make me bad. It just means we all have to work a little harder to get up in the morning, to put on our shoes and go outside. To bring a smile and a light into someone else day. 

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