Sunday, December 27, 2009

Winter Grocery Shopping

Winter is now upon us. With last week’s great snowfall through the eastern seaboard, I got a glimpse of human irrationality. For the two or three days before the weekend weathermen have been predicting at least five to seven inches of snow in most areas. Then as the weekend came closer, that forecast jumped to twelve plus inches. When the snow did finally hit, it ended up being an easy sixteen plus inches. But just as easily and quickly as it came it swept right through, leaving a clear and sunny Sunday. People may have selectively forgotten that fact, but the weathermen also predicted a short-lived snowstorm.

You would like to think that with the accuracy of weather forecasting these days, especially looking only seventy two to ninety six hours ahead and not this ten day voodoo, people would have more faith in the forecast. When I see that a foot of snow is coming my way, I’m preparing to get up early to start shoveling. If I had a snow blower I would get up two hours later, but $500 can buy a lot of Big Macs. However, I also saw that the snowstorm was only going to last a day, so I also knew that I had to shovel once in stopped snowing, lest it melt some and then freeze into an ice rink. What I did not think was that I would be trapped in my house for a week and possibly consider cannibalism like a mountaintop plane crash survivor.

That sentiment is apparently no shared by at least half the public. Mind you, I am talking about the current scenario—a one day large snowfall. Not some four day blizzard marathon. One day of snow. One. And it was on a Saturday. Granted, it was Super Saturday, typically the busiest shopping day of the year, but still, a weekend day. I thought people would be relaxing at home or trying to get out and finish Christmas shopping. And perhaps they did do that. But they also went to grocery stores trying to stock up on milk, bread, and eggs. I know, I know. You think that it is entirely possible that these people were simply shopping for Christmas dinners and Christmas cookies. And I would assure you they were not. There were no components of Christmas dinners in those multitudes of shopping carts I crashed by on Friday. Nor were there bags of chocolate chips or sugar accompanying these kitchen staples. People were out to stock their pantries and refrigerators in case they got snowed in by a one day snow.

Why is it that this mentality exists? I find it very hard to believe that it has trickled over from olden times of war and the Depression. I would believe that people are worried about price gouging after the gasoline fiasco from Hurricane Katrina. Yet you cannot explain the behavior when it was clearly not going to be a blizzard. I think the best explanation for this is the same for the irrational run on banks. All it takes is a few people with unfounded fears to start talking up stocking their pantries and refrigerators. Then that scares more people and more people after that. Soon you have a packed grocery store and no milk on the shelves.

Now me, I was at the grocery store because I planned to make cookies that weekend and just happened to be out of milk, butter, and eggs. Really.