Letters I Haven't Written Yet

Image Credit @GlenLeLievre

I Mock Panic Shopping – But I Get It Too

Mr A and I decided to quarantine this week, and clearly, as Europe goes into lockdown, we made the right choice. And so, sitting comfortably in our home, already prepared with everything we need, we laugh at all the images of people buying ridiculous amounts of toilet paper and pasta. But if I’m perfectly honest, I wasn’t that different. When we hit the supermarket to get supplies, the first thing I did was go for the toilet paper. We didn’t even need it, we still had some. It was however, in my mind, the most important thing on the list, before any food items. Before chocolate even! So ya, I laugh, but I also get it. I get the buying of too much pasta, of the toilet paper, of the canned goods, all of it.

Where does it come from? Chances are, there are a ton of people much smarter than I am who have done studies on this sort of thing (and if they haven’t, they should). I think it probably comes from a number of things. First, and the most obvious, is fear. We’re used to having what we want, when we want it. Be it food, travel, goods, whatever – everything is right there, all the time. Suddenly, we’re told it won’t be possible, at least not for a while. Not sure how long that while will be. In the meantime, we see images of other countries, China, Italy, all locked down. We hear about France and Spain closing everything. Then schools are closed. Then bars, theatres, restaurants. We get scared. We run, we don’t think. And we buy as though the Luftwaffe is on it’s way and we won’t be able to go out in daylight for a long time.

Second, and let’s be perfectly honest, we also panic buy because we have very little trust in our elected officials. In most countries, people panic buy (those who can), because they immediately jump to an “every man for himself” mentality. No one is going to take care of us, so we have to take care of ourselves. Too often have our governments failed us – through nepotism, corruption, inefficiency, or general protection of the ruling elite – that we feel, deep down in our guts, that if shit hits the fan, the governments will only look after themselves and their rich allies, and the rest of us will be left to rot. I’m not even saying that it’s true in most places (though in the US it clearly is – no state of emergency declared until all Trump’s CEO buddies companies were informed and prepared? Bitch please) – many countries have taken measures to care for it’s population.

Third, people don’t understand the disease or how it’s spreading, and so they feel like they’ve lost control. This article explains it pretty well. There’s a retired doctor in the UK, Dr John Campbell, that has some great YouTube videos about the pandemic, and he explains it in a way that is both easy to understand, but also calming in that he doesn’t feed into the hysteria. Mr A watches the videos daily, and it’s how we better understand what’s going on and what to do.

Forth, and this is the most obvious reason for me, is that most people are fucking stupid. I mean it. They are. Universities are cancelled because of a pandemic, so what do students do? Hold giant going away parties before they go home. The government makes an announcement declaring emergency measures, and the next day terraces and restaurants are full, people not respecting spacing at all. Or football matches are cancelled to protect the fans, so they all meet outside the stadium to cheer anyway. Or else they hold a giant parade of people dressed up as Smurfs. Many don’t care most of the deaths so far have been the elderly or those with other health conditions (see this article for doctor’s take on it), so they run around and travel and continue to spread the disease without a care. I’m healthy, so what does it matter? When did we become a world where we will destroy each other over belief systems but we don’t give a shit if 20% of the population dies?

As for the toilet paper? Well, I think it’s a decency thing. We can imagine ourselves potentially without food, but being unable to clean our own excrement off of our bodies in the way we are accustomed? It’s too much for most people to handle, even if it isn’t logical.

I’m sure there are more scientific reasons as to why people panic buy, but those are the ones that come to mind for me. While you’re all out there getting your toilet paper and pasta boxes, I’m at home training to be Lara Craft with my Zombie killing knife in hand, waiting for the apocalypse to come. Panic, me? Never.

Header image credit: @GlenLeLievre

Comments (4)

  • Louise

    well you do know that the anagram of coronavirus is carnivorous right so training ain’t a bad idea…. xxx

  • Jim Nicol

    Hey Alnaaze. I agree with everything you’ve said – but I need to add one small but immense perspective. I am a registered nurse and I work both in the Intensive Care Unit and the Emergency Department. There is a massive irony here in that not only my employer, but people in general, EXPECT that when they show up with their symptoms or their ‘concerns’, that I will be there to help them. AND I WILL. I’m extremely miffed/jaded/confused/pissed off/baffled that my Health Authority employer enforces a mandatory two week self-quarantine automatically, even if asymptomatic, if I’ve stepped off a plane from another country as of Wednesday, but…I’m still expected to report to work (amongst all of the people who ARE actually sick and transmitting Corona and Ebola and Necrotizing Fasciitis and Tubercolosis and Measles and Herpes [wait, that one is me] since the dawn of humanity and nursing care). All of the Personal Protective Equipment isn’t going to stop me from brining that crap home to my family. I have trusted universal precautions and our immune systems to keep us as healthy as possible to this point – WHY would the ‘world’ need anything different? People are going to die – maybe even me or my kids. MOST aren’t. The panic and the reactive policies of government and health authorities is two-faced (they care about pleasing the public but obviously don’t care about those delivering the care), economically devastating (to Jose who needs to sell hot dogs at a Dallas Mavericks NBA game to feed his family), and downright unnecessarily disrupting (cancer and starvation and mass shooters and terrorists and genocidal rebel factions and fentanyl overdoses kill thousands and thousands of people every single day, but 8 billion people march on as a whole – nearly oblivious to those that succumb to those fatal insults). Corona Virus has made the wealthy scared – the landowners, the travellers, the people who have pantries with food and toilet paper and know exactly when their next meal is coming from. I feel fairly certain the the millions of orphans running in the streets of Rio or Sao Paolo aren’t social distancing – and I haven’t heard one word on social media about making sure they’ll be ‘ok’ – if you know what I mean.
    Alnaaze – I’m saying…..H1N1 came, infected 700 million, killed about a half million (people who had co-morbidities) and went…..OH, WAIT!!! No it didn’t! It’s still here!!! But we don’t talk about it anymore. We panicked, and reacted and built a whole bunch of plans for when the next pandemic hit. Now, the earth is having an anaphylactic reaction, a hypersentivity reaction to this newest virus. Viruses will always be here, in fact, my prediction – they’ll one day get their wish and wipe out humanity for the largest part. Until then, let’s wash our hands, don’t sneeze in people’s faces and don’t crash economies but panicking. Ten years from
    now, COVID-19 will be on the list of global insults that ‘didn’t wipe out humanity’ – or even close….or maybe it will. But I won’t be a reactive fool who dies with a pantry with 4×48 rolls of toilet paper in my closet.
    Thanks for listening.

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