Six Cans of Tuna

Columbia County, New York  I  Thursday, 30 April 2020

I went to the store on Saturday, 14 March, with shopping list in hand. One of the items on my list was tuna fish, and I wanted to get six cans. Usually, I have a decent stack of it in my pantry, but now I was low, because I’d been eating tuna sandwiches a lot lately.

I’d recently heard a lot of rumblings, and I knew COVID-19 was coming for us. I wanted to stock up a bit, thinking I might not want to (or be able to) go grocery shopping for awhile.

When I got to the store, they were out of toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins, but that was okay, because I was stocked up on all those things.

There were more empty spots on shelves than normal, no eggs, and definitely some bare spots in the meat case, the frozen section, and the pasta aisle.

I went to where the tuna was, to get my six cans, and there was none of the kind I normally buy, the kind packed in water. So I did what I usually do when a spot is bare, stand there and stare, hoping something will magically appear in its place.

And it did, kinda. Well, sorta. I noticed someone had discarded two cans of tuna in water in the back of one of the cases of tuna in oil, so I snatched those up.

It’s not like I hadn’t been to this store before and they’d been out of my kind of tuna. That’s happened to me a few times, but it’s usually not a big deal, because I always knew I’d be back again soon, and next time they’d have it.

But this time, I knew it was part of something larger, something longer-lasting which was coming, and I didn’t like it one little bit.

That night, my friend Patti posted a picture on Facebook which alarmed me. She’d gone to a different grocery store in town, a much larger one, in hopes of getting some chicken for next day’s Sunday dinner.

The picture she posted was of a long, empty meat case. I mean, there wasn’t one solitary package in it. Not even any of the weird stuff you would never buy, like chicken feet or cow tongue. Not even one $40 roast. Nothing. Empty.

In the next days, I began to see my friends all over the country post pictures of empty toilet paper shelves. It wasn’t just here, it was everywhere. I heard a lot of people talking about shortages of flour and yeast, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.

I have so many things to say about the scariness and shortages of this time, but my thoughts are so jumbled, I’m not sure I’ll ever make enough sense of it all to put my thoughts properly into words.

I’m not experienced enough to advise anyone about food storage, and certainly there are plenty of books, websites, and online groups devoted to the topic, so I won’t really attempt to go there. But I do know I have to start thinking a little differently about it.

Today marks the 39th day I’ve been in isolation. It’s been 45 days since Thing 2 has been to school.

I did eventually get four more cans of tuna, bringing my total to six. I know someday things will go back to normal, at least a new kind of normal. But I also know I will always remember the feeling of wanting to get six cans of tuna, and only being able to get two.