Around the middle of last week DC was in chaos over 2 inches of ‘surprise snow’. (As it occurred in January, it wasn’t such a surprise to many of us…) How were we going to cope with the threatened 2 feet over the weekend?
The answer seemed to be: by stockpiling groceries. On Wednesday night there was a queue to get into Trader Joe’s. On Thursday morning Harris Teeter in Adams Morgan – never fantastically well-stocked – had already run out of many items. Some were predictable. Perishables that they stock on a ‘not-quite-in-time’ distribution model had gone – there were no mushrooms or avocados. There was no cow’s milk. Other things were less predictable, but I think reflect the sorts of foods people might think to cook on a snowy weekend: potatoes, onions, butternut squash and bagged greens. (This being DC they had obviously run out of kale.)
Queues for checkouts reportedly lasted 45 minutes in some stores on Thursday night. Arguments were breaking out over just 15 minute waits in Harris Teeter in the morning. One old guy made it obvious that he thought we were all overreacting, muttering something like ‘is the world going to end tomorrow?’ as he joined the queue. He didn’t appear to be stockpiling food, but he probably doesn’t have any other mouths to feed. It’s somewhat difficult for those of us used to eating well at the weekend but who have lived in small apartments with no storage space for most of our adult lives. We’re used to buying our groceries on the days on which we’re going to eat them. In Adams Morgan it’s also hard to have a car (no parking), so we don’t often go to large stores to buy in bulk. We were stocking our homes from almost scratch.
I’m afraid to say that tempers frayed. The old guy decided to focus his displeasure on me as I tried to use the self-checkout and pack my groceries as quickly as I could, grumbling that ‘the rest of us don’t want to live here, lady.’ Somewhat taken aback, I didn’t respond, but on my way out I decided I had to take him to task for his rudeness, only to be told to ‘go to hell’. Probably the most American argument I’ve ever had…
Still I left the store having succeeded in securing most of my necessities – including ground coffee, cookies, dark chocolate, and ginger beer and limes for dark and stormies. There’s no need to be deprived of nice things when you’re snowed in!
It seems others felt the same way – when we realised we were low on red wine and headed to the liquor store there was quite a queue there as well!
The one thing I didn’t understand was the advice we received rather late in the day that we should make sure to have a gallon of water per person per day of the emergency. We filled what we could, but I couldn’t help but think that this was advice for an earthquake or hurricane, rather than for an event that predicted large amounts of water falling from the sky in frozen form…
In the event, we didn’t feel like we were properly snowed in. It started snowing about 1pm on Friday and kept at it until around midnight on Saturday, dumping around 2 feet of snow on us. But on Friday evening people were still enjoying happy hour at the mellow mushroom pizza place on 18th street, and on Saturday morning we made it through the snow to the diner, where cops and dedicated brunchers were being served by presumably local staff. Safeway seemed to be open, as was our local convenience store. I guess it would have felt rather different had we lived in a more residential district; you certainly didn’t want to drive anywhere.
We decided to take a walk round the neighbourhood, taking in the nearby hill that we were told was a good place for sledging (we’re sadly rather far from the fun on Capitol Hill). Though we could mostly walk on the semi-ploughed road, when we had to come off onto the verge or to take a short cut through the park, the deep, powdery snow, made walking very good exercise. I was quite jealous of those who had come out with skis! We spent a little while watching the sledging fun – flattened Amazon Prime boxes seemed to make as good sledges as did snowboards, especially when covered in a trash bag. When we got home we took some beers up to the roof to check out the view, but were driven in by the increasing wind chill.
Whether it will be cleared and safe to walk to work tomorrow remains to be seen. At least I have enough food left in the house to keep us going through Tuesday!