Shopping is such an adventure these days. You never know what you’ll find. Literally.
“I’ll be back in an hour, going out for ground beef and rice,” you say. Two hours later: “Hey, I’m back. Couldn’t find any beef, but I found a chair leg and some loose piano keys.”
It’s like that, right? If it wasn’t there last week but it’s in the store now, you pick it up.
Before the Covidian Malaise upended the Etch-a-Sketch of our comfy assumptions, you could find beef on any given day in any given supermarket. Remember that? If there wasn’t any beef, you took umbrage.
You, a jerk: “Excuse me? Are you the manager? I’d like a word. And the word I would like is hamburger. Why isn’t there any hamburger? I have people coming over, and we’re going to grill big, thick, juicy burgers and top them with cheese as thick as a deck of cards, and I come here, and what do I see?”
Manager: “There’s hamburger right there.”
You: “That stuff? That’s 97-3. You know, only 3% fat. It’s like eating a Sunday newspaper. Don’t even talk about the 90-10, it’s like 2% milk compared to skim; what’s the point? When I say hamburger, I’m talking about the 85-15.”
Manager: “Sir, I believe there’s some 85-15 in the case. Let me help you.”
You: “Oh, there’s 85-15, all right, but it’s the stuff in the plastic tubes. I mean fresh ground 85-15. There isn’t any.”
Manager: “I’m very sorry. We must have had a run in the last half-hour. I’ll get the stock boy to run some out.”
You: “How long will it take? It might be faster to go buy a cow somewhere and bring it to the store and have you work on it with a cheese grater.”
Manager: “Very sorry. I will get you the exact variety of meat you wish in the precise quantity you desire. Please don’t grab it from the stock boy’s hands when he comes out.”
You: “I have to wait for him to put it in the cooler?”
Manager: “If you could, we’d really appreciate it.”
You: “So now it’s all on me, huh.”
Now in these Soviet-flavored times, it’s different.
You: “Say, there doesn’t seem to be any ground beef.”
You: “OK, later maybe.”
The shortages are driven by plant shutdowns, of course, but also by news of plant shutdowns. When stories appeared about a kink in the pork-industrial complex, pork evaporated from the store. Put another way: If you’ve ever said “when pigs fly,” they have.
So here’s the headline that will test our mettle: “Lutefisk producers warn of shortages.”
There are some people who will throw down the paper and jump in the car to get lutefisk, and as long as they’re at the store, some paper towels. And there are some people who will find that the store is out of lutefisk, then buy paper towels because if you soak them in lye and leave them for a while, you pretty much have lutefisk.
Perhaps most people will continue the same non-lutefisk trajectory that their life has maintained for years. I just look forward to the resumption of normalcy: not buying lutefisk because I don’t want to, not because it’s unavailable.