It’s the same thing every winter. Local news starts off with a weather report that merely mentions the possibility of a few flakes of snow and suddenly it’s Gather the children! Man your posts! DEFCON ONE! And like a sea of panicky lemmings, people drive en masse to their local delis and supermarkets and Dairy Barns, stocking up on milk and bread. Yes, milk and bread. It’s an interesting phenomenon and I’m not sure if it’s indigenous to Long Island, but it’s been around for as long as I can remember. There must be some forgotten urban legend that wove its way around the Island decades ago. A suburban family wakes one morning to find that it has snowed. The patriarch of the family cautiously goes into the kitchen only to find that there is only a half quart of milk and two slices of bread left! The horror! The family screams in unison, the children start crying, the mother frantically tries to pump milk out of her breasts even though she weaned the youngest eight-years ago. And oh, irony of ironies, the deli just two blocks away has one gallon of fresh, whole milk left and one loaf of white bread on the shelf. If only there were some way to get two blocks away with having to trudge through the monster snow storm that dumped two inches of the white stuff all over town!
That would explain the way people head out in droves to the store when a storm warning hits. Innate fear — left over from the telling and retelling of the fate of the poor Levittown family who had to eat each other’s flesh and drink each other’s blood to stay alive during the great snow dusting of 1945.
I’m not trying to disparage those who feel the need to prepare for a snow storm. If the weather channel says we’re going to get eight inches of the white stuff, it’s a good idea to have the things you need in the house. It’s just the whole milk and bread thing that’s perplexing.
I worked at my uncle’s deli for about seven years and every winter, it was the same thing. Snow alert equals run on milk and bread. No one bought anything to go with the items. No cheese or ham for the bread. No boxes of hot chocolate or cereal to go with the milk. No eggs, which would make everything almost understandable — as I’d imagine they wanted to hunker down with a plethora of French Toast. No one bought toilet paper, or soda, or cans of soup. Just milk and bread. It would get to the point where a line would snake around the deli and I’d be ringing the customers up as fast as I could to get them in and out before a fight broke out over the last loaf of Wonder. He’s buying a gallon of milk and he lives by himself! Lynch him, that selfish pig! Flaming torches and pitchforks ensue.
As I look up and down my street, I notice that every house has at least one SUV parked in the driveway. Here are all these people with four-wheel drive on their behemoth-mountain vehicles , yet they are afraid to go out the door as soon as the first flake hits the street. And those who eventually do venture out fall into two categories: the Overly-Safe Driver, who clutches the steering wheel in a death grip and takes each turn as if she were navigating Mt. Washington; and the No-Fear Guy, who does 90 on an icy road just to prove he’s a man. Meanwhile, all the other people are ensconced in their homes, rationing out the milk and bread. They eye each other suspiciously and the oldest sibling — who has been designated family captain by the father — has to escort each family member to the bathroom, making sure that no one is trying to make a break for the kitchen try and steal someone else’s ration.
Never mind that there’s six pounds of chicken in the freezer, two dozen eggs in the fridge and a Poland Springs cooler that offers hot or cold water in the kitchen. We’re talking milk and bread here. No one wants to end up like that long ago family, turning into cannibals and then possibly zombies because they were unprepared for the storm at hand.
So when the too-perky weather lady on the local news at 5:00 tomorrow morning says we *might* get some snow, I’m going to have to make a decision. Do we ride out the possible two inches of snow without the makings of French Toast, or do I make a mad dash to the supermarket to fight with panic-driven people in the milk aisle busily eye gouging each other over the last gallon of 2%?
I think we’ll survive without the milk and bread. After all, I have beer and cookies. And the last laugh.