Social Distortions: A Few Short Words About the Public Response to the Coronavirus Panic
I went to visit a local shopping center, with the intention of picking up a few items. If you know anything about life in the Spring (northern hemisphere) of 2020, you understand there was an issue that inspired panic buying.
The following is an episode in my life during this period.
One that I am not proud of...
I always try to keep in mind the basic principles of CBT - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Your thoughts influence your emotions and dictate your actions.
If you have an unwanted feeling - you can basically think it away. If your behavior is not what you are wanting to do at the moment, think of something pleasant. And of course, you can change anything in the cycle.
Ultimately, you are responsible for what you do.
I have to write about an episode that happened to me when I was out shopping at the Walmart. I am writing this partially as a confession and in hopes that there may be some redemption in my writing this. I do not feel good about the situation and I don’t think it is reflective of who I am as a person. But writing this will give me a chance at introspection and an opportunity to see my role in society. This, especially since I am planning on being a social worker.
I was pushing my cart down the aisle, moving past the automotive, the men’s, women’s, children’s clothing sections, up through domestics and headed toward the area where they held products such as paper plates and cutlery. Up, along the bend would be napkins, paper towels and an empty shelf where they usually carry toilet paper.
As I pushed my cart along, my attention was suddenly directed toward a store employee who was talking to a customer.
The employee said, “You can only take one of those, sir.”
The man said, “At Albertsons they let me take more.”
“Well, they will stop you at the checkout lines.”
And then I heard him mumble something unintelligible. The employee walked away.
I walked past the aisle he was standing in and looked down it. There I saw some items which I had been seeking for the past three weeks: Lysol disinfectant spray and sanitary cleaning wipes. The man had two of the disinfectant wipes in his cart. He was also standing directly in front of the products, talking on his phone. I couldn’t quite hear what he was saying, but I was certain he was trying to find a way to abscond with his more than rationed allotment.
“Excuse me,” I said very quietly coming up behind him.
Just then a woman approached in front of him and reached out and grabbed another canister of wipes. The supply was dwindling quickly, and more people were walking by the end of the aisle, looking down in this direction. There were maybe five or six left on the bottom shelf.
On the upper shelf I saw some bottles of spray – lemon scented – my favorite. I couldn’t tell if they were in a bundle or if the four or five, I saw there were singles. Either way, these were necessities that everyone else in town had seemed to manage to get a hold of. Now it was my turn.
The man just stood there. I wasn’t sure if he heard me. The noise in the store echoed loudly and the phone was a possible distraction. I moved around a little because I realized that If I stood still, I might be less visible. I moved toward the shelf and then to the side. I was certain he had seen me because I thought I noticed a sideways glance.
Suddenly I became terribly impatient and this need to engage in vigorous physical activity engaged my central nervous system. I inhaled deeply and exhaled quickly. I felt my muscles tense up and I could hear the rhythm of my heartbeat in my ears and a pressure that you sometimes feel when you are climbing or descending a steep hill in a motor vehicle. I saw my hands reach out before I thought about it, or perhaps the thought came so fast that I didn’t pay it any attention. One of the dangers of automatic thoughts is that we tell ourselves they are out of the bounds of control – which they are not. We, as thinking beings, are completely capable of controlling our thoughts.
Etiquette can be at the same time a means of approaching people and of staying clear of them.— David Riesman
What do you really think are the most important products in the event of an apocalypse?
And recognizing the CBT model: thinking, influences emotion which control actions.
This time I could feel my thinking getting the better of me. The cart lifted off the ground and in its airborne trajectory moved about three feet to the right and came down with a thud that I was certain could be heard way over in sporting goods or even the craft section (which is usually uninhabited anyway).
“Hey! Her cart was in the way!” I heard the man yell. He whipped around and having moved the cart out of the way I noticed a walking device. It was brown, perhaps made of some metal like aluminum and had black handle grips you see on the driving bars of a bicycle. I think I might have seen some sort of metal prongs that looked like the shifting and brake gears on a bike as well.
“oh….i am sorry, sir” I heard the meek voice of the woman, holding the canister of Great Value Fresh Scent Disinfectant wipes close to her chest the way you would expect her to harbor a miniature schnauzer under her sweater.
“No, you were gossiping on the phone,” I retorted. Not really sure of the true nature of his cell phone conversation because I have always believed it is impolite to eavesdrop on conversations even when they are in public.
I reached down and grabbed one of the containers – it was green and white with the store logo on it. I had hoped for lemon – the obviously more popular variety and the Great Value Fresh Scent Disinfectant wipes were obviously wallflowers.
I quickly hurried away and could feel the façade I had put up quickly dissipating. The brown drained from my face and dripped into my knees which buckled slightly. I had to catch my breath and then I felt as if there were twenty cameras pointed at me and that there were a few people watching and when someone said something to a companion as I passed I was certain that one of the phrases they used was “that guy”.
I wandered around the store for a bit, looking at things I didn’t need and suddenly filled with a craving to desire food, even though my appetite was abandoned.
I was becoming a bit sad. And I thought about what I had done and how I responded. I tried to make some sense of it – the man was a no-good hoarder cellphone talker cart walker pushing aisle blocking miscreant with no regard for other shoppers and such.
I thought about what just happened and I reflected on my philosophy concerning mass hysteria and how I always understood that large groups were dangerous because people will do things in mass that they would not do if they were alone. I looked at some of the items I added to my cart when I only came here for a couple of things – the New York cut (prime – much better than choice) which I planned to use for tacos or slice up and make a sandwich with tonight. The hamburger buns, the Romaine lettuce, and the baby-cut carrots even though I would never eat any of the latter.
I guess I was chagrinned and moved my cart toward the exit. Trying to shrink inside myself, pretending I was a tortoise. I moved to the shelf check, not looking up at any of the people around me and then moving quickly toward the southern exit, lifted my receipt in the air for the exit greeter.
What is the most important thing to you right now?
© 2020 Finn