You live in Buffalo. It’s Saturday. There are only 10 shopping days until Christmas. For three days local media outlets have been forecasting an incoming snow storm rumored to wipe out all of your plans for the next two days. So what do you do?
You head to the supermarket.
This afternoon as I pulled into the Wegmans on Amherst Street, I was sure that I would be risking life and limb by stopping in for a few items. Of course it would be busy, people have been whispering “snow storm” for days, and when those two words come into play, Buffalonians hit the streets. But I wasn’t prepared for the reach of such carefully controlled chaos.
The store was prepared; there were plenty of carts and a good number of employees in the parking lot gathering more. This was more than helpful, lone carts were being reeled in to make sure that every parking space was available. I was fortunate to park within the vicinity of the entrance, but even the spaces in the nether reaches of the lot were full.
I think that every person I have ever met in Buffalo was in Wegmans today, but there was no time or space for visiting. The line at the deli was 10 deep, people pressed so closely to the counter that you had no chance of determining what was for sale until you too were right up against it.
Many of the shelves were empty, but the staff was working hard to fill them, their produce trolleys stacked high with cases of bananas, their flat beds loaded with boxes of cereal. Every cash register was manned and the lines of people, standing with their carts pulled in tightly to their bodies in order to take up as little room as possible, snaked across the front of the store and up into the aisles. The staff was cheerful despite the glut of exhausted faces that slapped their groceries up onto the belt. Most of the shoppers seemed to brighten after handed their receipt–they could go home now.
What is it about the threat of snow, specifically the first of the season, which drives people to run to the supermarket? I heard a handful of employees talking about the day’s sales breaking a record. Certainly, if you’re going to be housebound for a day or two you don’t want to run out of milk or bread, but are all of our refrigerators always so on the verge of empty that the thought of two days without a trip to the store brings on visions of deprivation?
What I noticed, more than anything, was the amount of junk food in people’s carts. Not judging, it just seemed to me that people had copious amounts of the stuff–ice cream, Cheetos, cheese in a can. Do we, as a city, use the possible onslaught of deep snow as an excuse to put on our sweats and snuggle up to a bad movie with a bag of Ruffles and a container of Bison Dip?
I like junk food, but for me the possibility of being stuck inside for two days means that I’ll finally have a chance to do some cooking. The plump chicken is in brine, the butternut squash in to roast in preparation for soup, the butter on the counter warming for a scone recipe, the pork tenderloin hanging out in some marinade. The opportunity to hole up in my kitchen for two days delights me, and I pray for Mr. O’Connell and Don Paul to be right.
What is it that you run to the store for when you hear that snow is on the way? Is it comfort food, junk food, or for those of you that eat out every day- any kind of food at all?