Our local weather forecasts are calling for massive snowfall this Sunday. Depending on who you believe and how much you exaggerate when you pass the word along, by Monday evening we should expect anywhere from six inches to fifteen feet. Midwest meteorology is an inexact science in that respect.
One result you can count on with demonstrable exactitude: if a TV weatherman so much as whispers the word “snow” as if it’s Today’s Secret Word, viewers will drop everything they’re doing, shove aside their loved ones, drive to the nearest grocery, and buy all the bread they can carry. Without knowing whether the coming storm will produce a mild drizzle or The Day After Tomorrow, the better-safe-than-sorry motto of the doomsday-prepping majority dictates that everyone err on the side of caution and hoarding.
The above photo was part of the scene my wife and I encountered tonight. Our presence was coincidental. Friday night happens to be our preferred grocery-shopping time slot. We would’ve been there tonight even if the Sunday forecast had called for 105 degrees and Hawaii Five-O skies. Overstocking in case of Frosty’s winter Armageddon was far from our agenda.
Just in case this weekend really is the one true winter-borne doomsday, I tried to play my part with more verve than usual, in hopes that my character would look more awesome and provide more tics to pass on to the actor who’ll play me in the eventual ripped-from-the-headlines movie adaptation, which will be called MURDERSTORM in all caps for maximum storminess. I wove through thick crowds and dodged around human obstacles as they furrowed their brows and pondered the meaning of “essentials”. I tried to keep my banter light, with my wife as well as with a mother and daughter I met weighing the pros and cons of the available Twinkie flavors. (Would their Original formula suffice, or would the *new* banana flavor be the perfect tropical snack to cure those wintry shut-in doldrums?) And taking a cue from all the best Robert Rodriguez films, by which I mean the Mexico Trilogy, I didn’t just pick up items and place them in our cart, because that would be boring and deleted from the screenplay. Instead I grabbed each item lightly, tossed it in the air, caught it, and then spiked it into the cart. Because Hollywood style. Well, except for the bananas, which were my wife’s and would not impress her much if covered with action-packed bruises.
The part that always puzzles onlookers and many participants: why bread? Why aren’t all items in the store equally depleted? The pharmacy was stocked. There were hundreds of gallons of skim milk left. I didn’t look at any of their non-food sections to review their inventories of blankets, snow shovels, fireplace kindling, or ammunition, but I’d bet they were more abundant than the bread.
No one knows why, but there are intriguing crackpot theories as to why bread is an instant sellout with every snowstorm:
* Grain is the best defense against the common cold.
* People line their coats with it.
* It tastes slightly better than Campbell’s Soup.
* Clark Gable once ate a sandwich during a blizzard, and America has been hooked on the notion ever since.
* Once the snow has destroyed our government somehow, the Illuminati plan to establish a new economic system that will require us oppressed subjects to barter with foodstuffs.
* White snow. White bread. White hearts. White light. White magic. It’s all connected.
* In case giant-sized warrior pigeons invade from outer space and demand crumbs as tribute.
* Subliminal commands implanted by those dastardly fiends at Wonder Bread.
* We Gen-Xers secretly love whiling away the indoor-sequestration time by reenacting the dinner scene from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.
* Bagels cost too much.
* Because it’s there.
* He who dies with the most bread wins.
We don’t get it, and we’ve lived here all our lives. All we know is what we saw at the store tonight, and what we’ve seen during numerous winters past. Snow threat = bread run. Go figure. I’m tempted to look into purchasing our own bread-making machine so we’ll never have to compete with the madding crowds and we’ll be ready for whatever new form our post-apocalyptic Midwest takes…assuming the Illuminati doesn’t already control bread-making, too.