Winter weather causes grocery store hysteria

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 12, 2014

Here in the South, we go a little nutty over the mere mention of frozen precipitation.
We just can’t help it.
I discussed that odd fact once with an elderly lady on aisle eight of my local Food Lion. In fact, at the time of the discussion, I had her pinned to the floor with my knee in her chest, and I was prying the store’s last gallon of fresh milk from her surprisingly strong fingers.
I suppose it’s part of our charm. Before the sighting of the first storm cloud, transplanted northerners watch us sprint from our cars to the grocery store entrance to load up on all the bread and milk we can get our hands on. They shake their heads in disbelief.
“In upstate Ohio,” they tell us, “we never thought of leaving for the grocery store until there was at least a foot on the ground.”
We smile and nod, secretly wishing they’d move back to upstate Ohio.
Just when we have a few mild winters and think we’re being silly, some old-timer will remind us of the big ice storm of ’96 that caught us by surprise and left hundreds … no, thousands … no, millions of us stranded in our darkened homes for three full years.
Then, we’re back in full panic mode as soon as we hear the extended forecast.
I suppose it’s our strange little custom. Every region of the United States has a quirk or two. Heck, California is practically known for nothing but its quirks.
Take, for example, the event we recently survived known as Black Friday. The northerners who think we overreact to icy weather are the same geniuses who will camp out for three days in sub zero temperatures just to get a few more dollars off on a wide screen TV at Best Buy.
Come to think of it, we do that here too. I’ll think of a better example later.
I have to confess that it’s a bit odd that the same people known for their laid-back low-key hospitality can so suddenly be transformed into the wild-eyed, almost maniacal speed-shoppers who will mow you down with a shopping cart in the blink of an eye.
But it’s who we are. From aisle to aisle we go, loading up on food items we’ll never consume.
“That’s all right,” we tell ourselves. “The leftovers can go in the bomb shelter. That’s right, the bomb shelter. Didn’t know I still had one, did you.
“Mark my words, those North Koreans are slippery little devils. I saw ‘Red Dawn.’ They’ll be here before you know it, and while you guys are rotting away in some internment camp, I’ll be kicking back in the bomb shelter wolfing down beef jerky sandwiches.”
There’s a pride in being prepared here. There’s also a pride in owning at least one vehicle large enough to transport the contents of an entire grocery store to your home.
That vehicle must be a four-wheel drive machine capable of knocking my puny little Nissan Sentra off the road with the mere draft it creates as it passes me on an icy highway.
I park between these vehicles almost every time I visit a local grocery store. I can’t see well enough to back out of my parking space until they leave. Each of the tires on these monsters could comfortably house a family of four.
But we must not only be more prepared than our neighbors, we must get to the store in a larger vehicle than our neighbors. It’s all part of the story we’ll tell after the storm.
“Yep, I checked the almanac last July and knew the storm was coming, so two weeks ago, me and the missus gassed up the hummer, headed to the store, and loaded up on all the bread, milk, and pinto beans they had.
“Then, when that three inches came last week, we were sittin’ on top of ready. Ol’ Fred down the street … we had to sell him some of our bread. Gave him mostly heels.”
Bragging rights. That’s important here too.
So, as we sit on the cusp of unpredictable winter weather, let’s resolve once again to keep our wits about us — as if that will really matter once the first storm forecast shows up in the extended forecast.
Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.