When I’m not on the road, Sunday is the day when I get my supplies and set things in order for the coming week. I like to get an early start as it means I don’t have to stand in line too long at the market. With the panic raging, lines are longer than normal, but I had some hope that people had exhausted themselves by now. Even so, I got an earlier than typical start. Apparently, I was not the only one thinking the same thing as the parking lot had many more cars than typical.
The shelves were mostly stocked, which was a relief, of sorts. I know more about the nation’s supply chain than most people, so I was not worried that we would run out of food, but it was still good to see it confirmed. Even the meat section was as full as normal and that’s the most fragile bit of the system. Items with a short shelf life tend to the least resistant to panic buying. Empty shelves are an exception in America, so seeing the stores full again will calm people’s nerves.
Having stocked up pretty well before the panic started, I just needed to top up a few things, but I took a look around the whole store just to see how people were handling things after a week playing pandemic. While picking up some skyr, I caught a bit of conversation between two women. I’d say both were in their 30’s, toward the older end, and they had the mom look. One of them was telling the other how great it was to have dinner together every night at the same time.
That will be one of the side effects of the great lock down. All of sudden, women are home and taking over their domain again. The kids are home, so they have reason to reassert their control over that part of their life. Many of these women will no doubt hate it and perform poorly, but most will be reminded that being home and running the household full-time was always their bets career option. Men will learn that having the wife home beats having a second income.
In line, I struck up a conversation with a women about this topic. The checkout has to be fumigated after each person goes through, so the lines are thirty people deep as we wait for our turn in the delousing station. The woman is in finance, so she can work from home. She has kids at home now, so she’s happy work has slowed up with the great shut down. Her kids get their school assignment over Skype, but she has taken over the normal instruction they would get in class.
She told me that she and the other moms are now talking about putting together their own community home schooling operation. I almost laughed out loud a few times as she explained how she and the other moms got a look at what their kids are being taught and how they can do much better. She was bit angry, for example, about the errors they found in the science books the school is using. There will be a lot of this type of stuff happening around the country because of the lock-down.
One of the unexpected consequences of this panic and the economic collapse that is now certain to follow, is people will discover the joys of want. We tend to think it is always terrible to do without, but there is an odd pleasure that comes from having to sacrifice and conserve. The mom I spoke with while waiting almost sounded giddy about the idea of simplifying the household diet in order to accommodate the shortages in the grocery stores. It will give her purpose again.
That will not just be about food. She said something about the lack of TV sports was a bit of downer, but I countered with the fact that everyone now gets to discover outside again and she lit up. No doubt she was thinking the same thing, but was happy for the confirmation. She and other moms are now taking over the fun time for their families, rather than delegating it to the entertainment business, sports leagues and the schools. Again, it will give these women purpose again.
On the other hand, we still live in a world of rule by exception. The right thing to do when someone says, “we need to normalize wearing masks in public like the Asians” is to punch them in the nose. That should have been the answer to people telling us their pronouns or their weird sexual fetishes. Instead, we committed ourselves to making one exception after another to accommodate a metastasizing number of weirdos, oddballs and trouble makers. The mask freaks will just be another.
That said, I doubt the mask thing lasts long. Americans are not going to live as if we hate everyone. Social trust has broken down, but it is not gone entirely. The reason Asians love masks is they have been practicing social distancing for 5,000 years, so the mask compliments a natural instinct. Conformity was their answer to the problem of social trust. To westerners, living such an existence will be a bridge too far, so the weirdos pushing it better enjoy their hazmat suits while they can.
Something I thought about as I was leaving is that suddenly the status hierarchy for women has changed. The mom I was chatting with was feeling really good about taking control of her household. Suddenly, the women taking care of their kids, taking over their schooling and being a stabilizing force are cool. Those career women sheltering in place with their box wine and social media account can no longer kid themselves about their real status in society.
There’s been a lot of wishful thinking about a baby boom coming from this lock-down, but what may follow is a marriage boom. Millions of single women now have no reason to exist, because they are stuck at home. They can’t cause drama at work and they can’t cruise the bars with their friends. Meanwhile, the women they made sport of at the office are having the time of her life at home with the family. There’s some chance this panic opens some pretty young eyes to the reality of their existence.
On the way out, I stopped at a light and noticed that the trees are all starting to turn green and the flowering trees are about to go into peak bloom. Persephone is making her way up from the underworld and all of creation celebrates.The cycle of life is immutable, which means that all things come to end, even plagues. It also means they are replaced by something new. A lot of bad things will come from the great lock-down, but on the other side will be some good things too.
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