I’m no longer in favor of the term “the New Normal,” because things don’t stay the same long enough to be normal. Let’s talk about the Abnormal Familiar.
Take the price of ground beef. At the start of the lockdown — 40 years ago, aka March — the store I frequent had some great deals. Well, I might be inhabiting an unseen mist of sickness, but whoa, $3.99 a pound!
The next phase: They’re out of ground beef, so you adapt. Looks like we’re having chicken. After that came the chicken shortage, so you got those huge bags of nasty frozen chicken breasts that looked like ax blades. After that, hamburger’s back, but it’s $8.99, so you think, “Well, it’s turkey tacos this week.”
All these things were abnormal, but you became familiar with the new situation. If they’d put out fresh-ground gopher, you wouldn’t be surprised.
I went to get groceries on Monday. Trader Joe’s, which always had a line of people waiting to get in, everyone’s heads bowed over their phones as if consulting a book of devotions, was boarded up with magical looter-preventing plywood. OK. Next store: also closed. Next one: open but with a long line.
Previously the long line was because they might have flour. The day before it had been long because people were buying supplies to donate. Today it was long because no one had gone out since the riots began. Familiar in each case, with a different cause. Next time there will be a line because a meteor struck Wisconsin and wiped out the cheese industry, and we’ll think, “Didn’t see that coming, but neither did the cows.”
I finally found an open store with no lines. They had almost no bagged produce. Hmm: Maybe the delivery trucks were torched, or it’s National Roughage Week, who knows. On the other hand, ground beef was under $6. Great! Also, chicken was $50 an ounce.
The line to the cash registers — as we used to call them before fear of contagion eliminated cash — wound back through the store, past frozen foods.
This gave me a chance to study the frozen garlic bread section of the freezer case for five minutes. I counted eight varieties — if you include Garlic Texas Toast in the same category as cryogenically frozen bread-torpedos. Some people think frozen Texas Toast isn’t bread at all, but some finely spun fiberglass. Perhaps.
I also noticed that all the packages were red. Why was that? It’s a color of the Italian flag, but perhaps I’m supposed to think of sauce. No one would buy Garlic Texas Toast if the box was lurid purple.
Next week a massive fire might consume the Lone Star State, and we’ll see Texas Toast and think, “Yes, it is.” And the week after that, we’ll have a vague pang of nostalgia for the days when there were 50 states, but hey, chicken’s back, and it’s cheap.
All I’m saying is that it was a good day. I got what I needed, and was grateful. And we had garlic bread for supper. Couldn’t resist. Imagine if I’d been stuck in front of the Brussels sprouts.
I still wouldn’t have bought any. In the face of swirling change, a man has to hold fast to what he believes, and I believe I hate Brussels sprouts.