It used to be that nobody ever called me. I’d get lonely notices on my phone, reading, “Last week you had one minute and twelve seconds of screen time.” Now, though, with the coronavirus pandemic, I’m Mr. Popular. The first person I usually hear from is my sister Lisa, who will start with an update from her local Costco, in Winston-Salem. “They announced a new delivery of toilet paper, but it was gone by the time Bob and I got there.”

365体育现金In New York, my sister Amy came for dinner and showed me a on shoppers hoarding at superstores. Because everything’s sold in such great quantities, the carts look miniature.

“Gun sales have gone up, as well,” Hugh said.

365体育现金Amy put her phone away. “So people can protect their toilet paper.”

Our friend Cristina was at the table, too, and we told her how bad we are at hoarding. “You have to understand, I grew up shopping with my father,” Amy said. “With a professional.”

I remembered him during the oil crisis of 1973, heading to the Shell station with empty cans and getting in line at 4 a.m. All our cars had full tanks, but he needed the next guy’s ration, as well. I didn’t even drive, but, still, he taught me how to siphon. I remember the shock of a mouthful of gasoline, spitting it onto the street and thinking, Someone could have used that.

365体育现金“Can you imagine dad twenty years younger?” I said to Amy. “He’d be out there every day, buying pallets of fruit cocktail. And toilet paper—he’d have a forest’s worth under the tarp in the back yard. If rats chewed holes in the plastic and it got rained on, he’d stick the rolls in the oven, or go at them with a hair dryer.”

365体育现金How can we—his children—be so bad at the kind of shopping he prided himself on? I tried to hoard at Whole Foods the other day, and came away with two steaks and a pouch of dried coconut.

“Coconut?” Hugh said when I got home. “What am I going to do with that?”

365体育现金That night, at Morton-Williams, I tried again, and returned home with a package of Ball Park hot dogs, a pint of buttermilk, and some taco shells.

365体育现金“I give up,” Hugh said.

365体育现金Oh, but I haven’t. Amy and I went to Eataly the next day, determined. Twice we were scolded by staff members for standing too close to the person ahead of us, at the butcher and at the freshly-made-pasta counter. “We have the floor taped so you’ll know what distance you should keep,” the woman who did the scolding said.

365体育现金It helps to look at which shelves are bare. That teaches you, I suppose, what you should be hoarding. Most of the people I see in lines these days aren’t real cooks. I noticed at my neighborhood stores that all the canned spaghetti sauces were gone, the horrible ones that taste like ketchup, as well as the frozen pizzas and burritos—stuff we never eat. Toilet paper is gone, too, of course, as are paper towels.

I’ve started watching YouTube videos by a conspiracy-theory influencer, a QAnon guy who sees a correlation between epidemics and election years, and suggests that we “connect the dots.” When Trump said, “We are fighting an invisible enemy,” the influencer knew he was talking about the deep-state cabal and not the coronavirus.

“Where do people get this stuff?” I said to Hugh. Then I blew my nose into a scrap of fabric I’ve been carrying around. Good luck finding Kleenex anymore. Tissues and napkins are the new alternative to toilet paper.

A drugstore in my neighborhood had hand sanitizer the other day. There was a sign in the window announcing it, and a number of people looking at the sign and waiting for someone to open the door. That happens a lot now. No one wants to touch the handle. “Fine,” I always say. “I’ll do it.”

Then I have to stand there and let thirty people through.

365体育现金The drugstore had big bottles of hand sanitizer, but I couldn’t see the little ones, and couldn’t bring myself to ask where they were, as I didn’t want to look like I was panicked. I guess that’s what makes for a successful crisis shopper. Like my dad standing in the dark with his empty gas cans, these people don’t care what they look like. It doesn’t matter if they get glared at. Hidden as they are behind an eight-foot tower of toilet paper, they’re never going to register it, anyway. “That’s the spirit!” I can imagine my father saying as they unload their carts in the parking lot, filling every cubic centimetre of their massive S.U.V.s. A quick stop home to drop off the frozen stuff, then it’s back to the store for thirty jugs of bleach.


A Guide to the Coronavirus