Living near a Whole Foods Market has many advantages, but it must be admitted that they don’t carry certain necessities of life. Like, say, breakfast cereal. (Okay, they do carry cereal, but theirs is healthier than I’m used to and I don’t care for most of it.) So every now and then, I drag myself out to a major “normal” grocery store and buy a few months’ worth of the foods I can’t get closer to home. I chose yesterday morning for one of these trips, figuring that the day after Thanksgiving has to be one of the calmest days at grocery stores. (It is.)
As I’m waiting in line to check out—my cart loaded with frozen juice concentrate, salad dressing, eggnog, dark brown sugar, molasses that isn’t strong enough to knock you unconscious, and seven boxes of cereal—an older woman comes up to me. In an accent that hails from Germany or points east of there, she observes that I’m buying a lot of breakfast cereal.
She asks how many people are in my family.
Oh, all this cereal is just for me.
She thinks this is a good idea. It’s wise to have food on hand, in case there is trouble.
I draw breath to explain why I have so much cereal. I want to say that I know that one should stock up on better food than this in case of emergency. Before I can say this, however, she adds that she has heard that there may be difficulties next month.
This throws me. This isn’t the season for crop failures in the Midwest (that would’ve been this past summer, what with the drought and all), and I can’t think what else—
The Mayan calendar is ending next month. She isn’t sure what this will mean, but if food runs out, and people are rioting in the streets, it will be good to have food stored at home. She herself has been stocking up on a protein called WOW. It’s sold on the Internet and it’s much better than the protein you can buy locally. Oh, her children think she’s crazy when she talks like this, but it’s best to be prepared.
I am saved from having to respond to this when the woman behind us greets her and they start talking. I move ahead to check out. I don’t offer my opinion on the wisdom of worrying about the Mayan calendar. I don’t lecture her that protein alone probably isn’t much better as an emergency supply than breakfast cereal, nor do I tell her that the CDC has suggestions on their website for how to prepare for emergencies. (I find their website overwhelming. What would she have thought of it?) And I’m not laughing at her, because it occurs to me that a 70-something woman who speaks in an accent that comes from Germany or somewhere east of there may very well have personal knowledge of food shortages and the wisdom of having food squirreled away.