“Have you any tinned mackerel?” I ask the lady in Tescos who is in the process of stocking the shelves.
“I’m not sure. Oh yes, I see them here. How many do you want?”
“Two, please,” I say, and she proceeds to take two tins out of the box.
“No, I meant two boxes,” I say.
“JESUS CHRIST!” she utters in a biblical tone.
“Well, I always buy two boxes,” I explain, “I come in once every month or two especially. I’m not panic buying, honest.” I plead with her to understand but she does not believe me even though I am telling the truth. The tins are only around 55c each and so only €11 for 20. But it’s useless to try and explain myself and I expect I shall be the subject of conversation in the canteen at break time. After checking out I go to Dunnes.
At least they know me in Dunnes, I think, and won’t be judging me for filling up my basket with heaps of butter and olive oil as I buy the same thing every week.
In Dunnes, the toilet roll aisle is decimated and there is a merchandiser with a ten foot high trolley of disinfectants, soaps, and tissues. And so I approach to investigate.
“Are people buying a lot of this stuff?” I ask.
“They’re all gone fucking mad,” he says, “and tis even worse in Australia, over there they can’t get a toilet roll for love nor money.”
“Blimey,” I say, and bid him good luck.
Around the corner two lads have just picked up a bumper pack of budget toilet rolls. “We better get the other one,” one says to the other, “or we mightn’t be able to get them again.” His mate nods solemnly and picks up the last packet from the shelf.
On the beer aisle I see the Corona beer is on sale. If there’s one thing more shocking than the toilet paper crisis it’s that Corona beer has lost $130,000,000 in sales since the start of the hysteria. Don’t people know that it isn’t the beer that’s to blame? I haven’t drank since Christmas, but the offer is so good I’m tempted to buy a case of it and take a selfie of myself drinking it so as to prove to the world it’s not actually liquid virus. But then I’d probably wake up in the morning feeling so hungover that I’d be convinced I had it and not an actual hangover.
At the till is one of the cleaning product/toilet paper hoarders. She is tall, slim, attractive looking, and blonde. Her trolley is stacked high with paper towels, disinfectants, toilet rolls, and soap. I find it hard to comprehend how such an angelic looking beauty could have such a need for toilet rolls. I scan her shopping for food and the only thing I can see is one miserable looking head of broccoli wrapped in plastic. After me is an Asian woman with 10 bottles of hand soap, 6 boxes of chocolate cereal, and 3 small glass bottles of Fat Frog. I think she might as well just buy several sacks of sugar instead of all that cereal, the only real difference, dietarily speaking, would be the chocolatey crunch. Soap, cereal, and booze is her apocalypse survival strategy, and it’s an interesting one.
The background music being played by the shop is calm and soothing, and might well be akin to something one might hear in a day ward of a lunatic asylum.
There is a definite sense of general panic in the air. But at least one can get pissed cheaply – especially if one is smart enough to realise that Corona beer is not responsible for the great plague of 2020.
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