Saturday, January 22, 2005

Panic sets in 

Growing up as I did in Iowa, attending law school as I did in Michigan, and living as I did for many years in Chicago, there is very little that entertains me more than the panic that hits New Jersey like clockwork in advance of a predicted snow storm.

The most intense panic always forms around the grocery stores, as if the supply truck won't be able to get through for days. The local citizenry attacks McCaffery's Supermarket like a Soviet state store rumored to have a new shipment of toilet paper. Families that that always have several days worth of milk in the fridge suddenly require two or three times the normal inventory. People buy farookin' pallets of bottled water as if water were in short supply during a snow storm.

So naturally I set out with my camera to chronicle the hysteria.

Arriving at the Princeton Shopping Center, the normally polite local drivers were gridlocking the entrance, interposing their Escalades in front of oncoming traffic, no doubt terrified that the last quart of milk would be purchased in precisely those lost 30 seconds. They were packing themselves into the place, and not just to go to the grocery store. For the first time since we have lived in Princeton, I saw the parking lot full.
 Posted by Hello

Indeed, just after I took this shot I overheard a man explaining over a cell phone that he had "never seen it like this."

The zillions of cars was the first sign of panic, and the complete absence of available shopping carts was the second. They are normally stacked up here:
 Posted by Hello

On the inside, shoppers clogged the aisles, and those without carts or baskets simply embraced the little food that they could carry. The checkout lines spilled well into the aisles.
 Posted by Hello

Even the express "line" in the back, which discharges into the shopping center's courtyard, rather than into the parking lot, looked like a subway turnstile at rush hour:
 Posted by Hello

Of course, the panic was not confined to food. The TigerHawk snow shovel needed replacing (yes, we shovel our own snow and consider it wonderful exercise, but we hate a wobbly shovel), so I trudged over to the Ace Hardware store around the back side of the shopping center. There I secured a new ergonomic shovel (with a suspiciously high price, overlabeling another price sticker) and got on this line:
 Posted by Hello

Truth be told, the only reason that snow induces this sort of panic in New Jersey is that the local authorities suck at clearing it. You never see a salt truck before the storm, when it might do some good, and they don't start plowing until the roads are a complete mess. Do they think that if they plow too early they might have to do it again? Isn't this the excuse your teenager uses for not making his bed?

All of which leads me to an exchange I had this morning with a woman in line at the Princeton Starbucks.

Woman: "The snow wouldn't be so bad if only they would plow it off the roads."

TigerHawk: "They do a bad job of clearing the roads because for some bizarre reason the voters of New Jersey do not punish their elected officials for doing a bad job of clearing the roads."

Woman: "Are you a Bush supporter?"



By Blogger Sluggo, at Sat Jan 22, 02:34:00 PM:

Man, imagine the scene if something really bad happened. And by the way, your fascist pro-accountability stance clearly marks you as a neo-con.  

By Blogger Pile On®, at Sat Jan 22, 06:52:00 PM:

Very amusing post Jack. At least in Jersey it actually does snow, I have witnessed the same phenomenom in South Texas when the forecast calls for freezing temps, wind and rain.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have been known to stock up on beer when there is a norther blowing in.  

By Blogger Charlottesvillain, at Sat Jan 22, 10:12:00 PM:

Down here in Virginia they closed schools Friday because it was supposed to snow. First flakes fell at 11:30 am Saturday, and ceased by 1:15. Maybe half an inch accumulated. Of course I'm sure the two plow guys will still be busy for days.  

By Blogger geoffrobinson, at Sat Jan 22, 10:42:00 PM:

First of all, I used that objection for making your bed. It makes sense. At least in that context.

I have lived in NJ my whole life. I have never understood the mad rush to the stores. I've always said "Jesus is coming back and he can only be appeased by milk and bread."

Seriously, we have freezers. Roads will be bad, for at maximum, one day. We aren't about to starve. I honestly don't understand.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jan 23, 10:39:00 AM:

I used to live on the Keweenaw Peninsula in the far North of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. 30 feet of snow some years. Since the whole winter was essentially one long snowstorm we used to buy cases and cases of beer in early October, as a measure of preparedness, Let it snow!  

By Blogger Jody, at Sun Jan 23, 10:12:00 PM:

Hilarious observation. I can guarantee you that this not a regional thing either. My trips out during our hurricane season this year was a lesson in severe panic, especially after the THIRD one. You've already bought 40 cases of water for the first two, don't tell me you already used it in two weeks...But I was just as guilty, I still have bottle water left over. I wonder if FEMA will reimburse me?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jan 24, 07:09:00 AM:

We were greeted with the same scene here in Fredneck, MD. I tried to get to the store Friday but the little red sports car would not start, so I had to wait for the Spousal Unit, who did not get home from work until almost 9 pm.

We left for the local grocery emporium, which was sadly bereft of milk, bread, most meat products... all for a predicted 3 inches of snow. Luckily we didn't need most of these things and were just stocking up to be on the safe side. We did need eggs, which they had, luckily, and beer which would have been a true emergency. And tortilla chips, thank the Lord. And the favored brand of heart-smart breakfast cereal. And a frozen pizza because yours truly was not about to cook dinner when we returned to the casa at 10 pm.

So the Republic was saved.

- Cass  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon Jan 24, 12:20:00 PM:

If you can't get through a Sunday on beer and tortilla chips, you really don't have a clue. I've always said that.  

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