According to David Sedaris, it helps to look at which shelves are bare. That teaches you what you should be hoarding…. Support our news coverage by subscribing to our Kindle Nation Daily Digest. Joining is free!
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.”
In New York, my sister Amy came for dinner and showed me a Rolling Stone photo essay 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.
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.
“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.”
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