27 March 2020 – Day 11
Once it was a status symbol to have a German car or two lurking on the drive, but now it’s a garage insulated with toilet rolls and enough long-life milk to float an ark. I recall that the shortages in 1974 (related to the three-day week) included toilet rolls, but my recollection is that the hoarders were singing from the wrong sheet. The shortages were fuelled by rumour and panic buying, as they are today.
Arrived at the supermarket at 8am to use the priority ‘slot,’ for the elderly. I wasn’t expecting celebrity treatment and this was confirmed by the packed car park. Hi Viz jackets at the doors were restricting the numbers entering. This kept enough space inside to observe the social distancing rule of 6 feet between persons. (The distance is 2 m for those shopping after the ‘elderly slot.’)
The queue outside ran the length of the superstore. Shoppers stood like tombstones two trolley lengths apart. I made for the queue’s end, but on reaching the corner of the building, I found it went through a passageway – out onto a main road – down the road and into the hospital grounds next door. I was right about, no celebrity treatment.
There were few smiles, unless there were some beneath the occasional medical-mask, as we progressed in surges along the main road. It was a relief to reach a sunny spot and melt the coldness from the shadows. A mere 45 minutes later and we were welcomed by the Hi Viz staff and the warm indoors.
We trolleyed around in comfort, an improvement on the usual crush. There was some white laminate to groan at, but most things I required were there for the buying. I guessed that the ‘crazies’ were still in bed, but noticed certain tissue and long-life products were restricted to two items per shopper. Over the public address system came frequent reminders, to keep the required distance from other shoppers and to pay by card, as cash could carry the virus. Yellow and black striped tape was stuck to the floor around the check-outs forming boxes to stand in and maintain the distance rule.
While I was loading the car, a man choking on an Arsenal scarf stopped near me. ‘How long’s this going to last?’ He asked. My new specs must have given me the appearance of a virus specialist or maybe Harry Potter. ‘A few months,’ I tried to be cheerful.
He shook his head. Then asked, ‘Do you know where I can buy some table tennis bats?’
What? Are they panic buying sports equipment now? ‘The sports shop is still open,’ I said.
‘Oh good. You see I’ve got two sons’ home from university and they’re driving me mad, got to keep them occupied.’
So, the old pastimes are being revived now to fill time. An ironic outcome maybe, that the survivors will come out of this, fitter than before.