There is no toilet paper left in the entire city. Not a square to spare. The lines to enter my neighborhood Trader Joe’s are wrapped around the block, with anxious New Yorkers waiting in the rain at 7 am for a chance to purchase pandemic preparatory products. But for some, the time had passed. Purell, Lysol, cold medicine, zinc, peanut butter all gone. Toilet Paper? Fugetaboutit!
Like many of my fellow Big Apple dwellers, I waited in long lines in an attempt to stock up for what may be a lengthy hunkering down. Some predict a few months. Some are saying it will be longer. No one is quite sure.
No one is quite sure of anything.
Early last week I began to limit my time around people, canceling non-essential appointments, since according to experts, I am at a higher risk for becoming seriously ill if I am exposed to the virus due to a challenging autoimmune illness and asthma.
I decided to prepare for the worst and hope for the best by stocking up on the essentials: canned goods, water, masks and Purell. There’s only one problem: There are no masks left in the city. And good luck finding any hand sanitizer, gloves, or canned goods. The shelves remain barren, stripped clean. The demand for pandemic essential items seems to outweigh the supply, leaving many in a state of perpetual panic.
While I tried to wrap my brain around this new normal, my mind began to wander, and I wondered: What if unscrupulous people were buying all the suggested corona supplies with the intent of jacking up prices to sell to desperate terror-stricken New Yorkers?
Creepy guy in oversized raincoat:”Psst! Hey Miss! You’re looking for the good stuff?”
Me: “Yes Sir. I am looking for face masks and hand sanitizer so I can protect myself from the Coronavirus. Do you know where I can get some?”
Creepy Guy: “Oh yeah baby, I got what you need! Purell, face masks, gloves. Got it all right here. (Creepy guy begins to open his supersized raincoat, exposing a large stash of assorted anti-Coronavirus items) How many do you want?”
Me: “Well, I am not sure. According to health officials, the mask will not help to prevent exposure to the virus. Do you have any information available about the effectiveness of the face mask during a global pandemic in large urban areas?”
Creepy guy: “Look, do you want the stuff or not? Plenty of people who kill for a stash like this! But it’ll cost you, $100 bucks for pocket-size purell, $200 per mask.”
Me: “I don’t mean to complain, but that sounds a little steep.”
Creepy guy: “Hey lady! There are no masks left in the entire city!”
Me: “Okay. I’ll take two. Not to be picky, but do you have any other colors besides white? White can get so dirty, and from a vanity’s standpoint, I tend to look a little washed out in white, not to mention the challenges associated with the color white from a feng shui perspective. Hey, that reminds me of a funny story! So, I was painting my living room this interesting, but intense shade of mauve, and….”
Creepy Guy:”What are you crazy! Meet me in the ally in ten minutes and bring the cash! And come alone! Now scram! I’m trying to run a business here!”
So I got my hands on the basics, masks, hand sanitizer, canned goods, bottled water. But truthfully, I didn’t feel any better. But then again, why would I?
The government’s response to the global health crisis that began in December 2019, has been anything but reassuring. It’s been a disaster.
From President Trump’s firing of the entire pandemic global response team, to his press conferences and tweets full of inaccurate and misleading information, to his monotoned teleprompter press conferences touting all his many accomplishments, it’s not only not reassuring, it’s downright disturbing.
“One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
“The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”
“I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away… They have studied it. They know very much. In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine.”
“The 15 cases in the US within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.”
“Frankly the testing has been going very smooth.”
“Last year 37,000 Americans died” from the flu: “Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on.”
“I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it… Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”
I guess it’s not surprising that people are rendered in a state of panic, amid the confusion, fear, uncertainty, when faced with the prospect of enduring a global pandemic with a leader who consistently exhibits a lack of leadership, proving time and time again his inability to protect its citizens.
So when the death toll rises; when mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandparents, loved ones are parted, when doctors are forced to choose between patients due to a lack of available respirators and beds, when the economy tanks, when the suffering ensues, keep your thoughts and prayers.
Send toilet paper.
ill Rachel Jacobs is a New York based writer whose publishing credits include The New York Times, Reuters, The NY Post, The Independent, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Newsday, The Chicago Sun Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Forward, The Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Organic Style, The Chicago Tribune, NPR’s Marketplace and Morning Edition.