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March 13, 2020

It’s the day after the World Health Organization officially announced the coronavirus or Covid-19 pandemic. I had just dropped off Lola, my Golden Retriever, at the dog wash and walked over to Vons next door to get a few things. While there my daughter, Jacqueline, shares with me via text that classes at the local college have been cancelled and instructors are informing students that courses will now be taught online. She suggests I stock up on some things. I looked around the store and sensed panic amongst the shoppers standing in long checkout lines.

Oh dear. I began filling my cart – but not with toilet paper because there was none to be found. Employees I normally have a chat with were “all hands-on deck” dashing around the store and stocking items. A woman next to me in line said, “I’ve got my wine – there’s plenty on the shelves!”

As I was leaving the store, I saw one of the managers cashiering. I waved goodbye to him. He was calm but overwhelmed. He smiled and in the most endearing way said, “Bye, Athena…take good care of yourself…” When I drove away, my eyes filled with tears.

When I called my husband, Louie, to tell him about my unexpected market run, he fell quiet. He then asked me to pick him up so that we could shop for meat at local grocery store. At that moment, I was approaching the store and saw the parking lot packed. I think you better meet me there instead, I told him.

It was swarming inside. I grabbed a cart to pick up specialty items that we like. Their carts are smaller than standard-sized ones, so it was filling up fast. And there was no toilet paper. Then I saw Louie come in and he went straight for the freezer to grab frozen meats we normally don’t buy, like turkey legs.

A neighbor we ran into had only a few items in her hands. She felt people were overreacting. As I stood there with my cart overflowing with my favorite cranberry walnut bread on top, I told her that my reason for stocking up is that many items might be harder to come by soon. She might have regretted not getting at least a few more things because the lines haven’t waned since.

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