Whenever a storm is on the way in Newfoundland everyone takes the empty shelves and long line-ups at grocery stores as evidence that Newfoundlanders, particularly those in the St. John’s area, overreact to coming inclement weather by stocking up on enough food to survive being snowed in for weeks. The truth though is that is not actually the case. The longer line-ups before storms is not due to irrational hoarding, it is just a matter of everyone who needs to get groceries in the next day or two going to the grocery store because they may not be able to get out of their driveway the next day. If you combine two days of grocery store volume into one you will end up with a very crowded grocery store. Though storms don’t turn Newfoundlanders into hoarders, they do turn them into zombies.
Since I knew I wouldn’t be leaving the house tomorrow, I stopped into the grocery store today to pick up a few things for the weekend. The place was busy, but not overrun with people by any means. The people who were there, however, almost to a person, were all scuffling along in a slow, almost ominous gait.
Normally at the grocery store, most people look like they have somewhere to go after their grocery shopping; they are pushing their carts, around, grabbing items decisively, and scratching items off their lists. Today, as with every time there is an approaching storm, everyone seemed confused. Some were just standing there, staring confusedly at items, unable to process whether to buy three yoghurts to get the multi-savings or just get the one package. Those who were moving were doing so only barely, as if they were unsure exactly why they were in the store or what they were supposed to be doing, but just knew that they weren’t supposed to be standing still. So they moved. Barely.
Multiple times I had to squeeze past a logjam of people with shopping carts pushed by people who weren’t taking anything off the shelves. I excused myself but none of them seemed to notice my presence, even though I was passing inches in front of their faces. I’m not sure if they noticed any of the items in the store. I can only assume that 15 minutes before closing the store staff took all these people by the elbow and lead them to the checkout.
I’m not sure why storms have this effect on people, but I suspect it may have something to do with people going to the grocery store before they were planning to and not preparing a grocery list. I cook a lot and am in a grocery store pretty much every day or two and people generally seem like normal human beings when I’m there, but whenever a storm is on the way easily two thirds of everyone in the store start acting like zombies.