I go in to work today, it’s pretty much like any other day, with a few exceptions that make it worse than most days—broken report printer, a register missing $150, and everyone talking about how Austin is going to get hit by a hurricane.
“I’m sorry, what did you just say?” I ask one of my co-workers.
“You know Rita, right?”
There used to be this lady that I knew in Kansas named Rita—she had huge hair, and always laughed really loud. I was just a little kid, so she kind of frightened me, but that doesn’t have anything to do with this story. I just thought I would tell you.
The Rita in question is the hurricane named Rita. When I went to bed last night, there were all kinds of special reports about it, but none that told me I was in any danger. A little rain, perhaps, and some strong wind, but nothing too bad. Nothing at all in comparison to what the new batch of evacuees had to abandon their homes for.
But now this. They’re telling me that not only is there going to be much more than just wind, but if the hurricane hits land in a certain spot, it will more than likely survive all the way up to central Texas…Austin…my home.
I’m listening to this and that, people talking about how their uncle’s cousin that lived in Houston had to battle through traffic, how a friend’s mother left at midnight last night and is still on the road, about how an old roommate’s auntie decided that she didn’t want to deal with traffic and is just going to wait the storm out.
And then there are people who talk about what they’re going to do if the hurricane actually does make it to Austin. People who have family here and there, how they’re going to get there, their ingenious plans to beat traffic.
I’m just trying to count the cash register and figure out where that $150 went. There’s no way to follow clues, because the only clues are in the reports, and the only printer that prints reports is broken.
And then we get a call from the big boss, he’s telling us to put all of our portable radios, handheld TVs, and batteries on a display table at the front of the store. It’s his reasoning that people are going to want to buy this stuff, and if we have it on a table, we’ll sell more. I think it’s a pretty dumb idea. I mean, if you’re going to be a dick about it and try to capitalize on the misfortune and fear of others, you should do it right: put the batteries at the back of the store, make the customer walk through to find it. Because I guarantee that they’ll find something else they want on the way there. Panic brings out the weird compulsive shopper in people, I’ve noticed.
This guy came in today to get a radio, he decides to grab a candy bar right quick, and then something catches his eye, just a little further down. When he gets there, something else catches his eye. He comes back an hour and a half later, he’s got a wireless mouse, three candy bar wrappers, a car amp, two keyboards, a cart full of batteries, two radios, some CDs, and a thirteen inch TV. What kind of disaster was he expecting, do ya think?
Anyways, so that’s what I did today, was sell batteries, portable radios, flashlights, and more batteries. People were buying the shit out of batteries. Couldn’t get enough. My first customer of the day, she bought three flashlights, a portable radio, and batteries. Spent $231. I’m not kidding, man. The radio was twelve bucks, the flashlights—combined—were probably seventy bucks.
People are nuts.
I had to get an oil change and a new tire today (the oil change was way overdue, and the tire has been leaking air for the last six months—the bastards at the gas station jacked up the price for air from 50 cents to 75 when they jacked up the price of gas last time, the reasoning being…you know what? No reason being except for they’re greedy bastards). While I was waiting, I walked over to the grocery store, just to see if the rumors of grocery store madness I had heard were true.
Sadly, they were. No bottled water…none. Not Dasani, not distilled, not even that flavored crap that tastes like a burp after you’ve been drinking wine coolers or something. The aisle was empty, man. There’s something strange about seeing an empty grocery store aisle, in my opinion. Unless there’s construction, it just looks like a scene out of a horror movie.
I went to the toilet tissue aisle next. This one wasn’t quite so bad, because they also had paper plates and stuff on that aisle. Here’s what’s weird though—most of the paper plates were gone, the toilet paper was all gone, the paper towels were all gone. The plasticware was still there, and so were the napkins. That kind of messed with me, the napkins being there. Because not only were they still there, they were full and untouched! Like people are freaking out, they’re grabbing toilet paper, “Ah, no, no, what if the hurricane hits and I have to take a shit! What will I do? Toilet paper, that’s the answer!” But, no, others had the same idea, and there is no toilet paper. “I’ll use paper towels, then! I’ll wipe my ass with the Brawny man!”
And this happens time and again. But then they run out of paper towels, and people don’t think to grab the napkins. They just act like wild animals or something, I guess, and wipe their asses on the ground. Revert to nature, clean your ass with sticks instead of looking behind you and realizing that napkins will do the same job, only so much gentler. It’s just weird to me. Not as weird as this, though: all the baked beans were gone.
I walked by, expecting to see some damage to the canned food aisle, but it looked all right. A little bare in some spots, but it mostly just looked like it needed a little restocking. And then you get to where they normally keep the baked beans…empty. No wonder all the toilet paper was gone. What are these people doing?
Also, the bread aisle was that same kind of empty as the water aisle. Like people are taking the term “living on bread and water” a little too literal. It’s okay, ladies and gentlemen: In the event of natural disaster, you can actually eat things like Oreos and Fun-Yuns. You can drink Coke and Hi-C. Whatever.
I meant to take my camera, but I forgot it. Plus, what if I need those batteries for some reason? “The hurricane has come, and my remote control doesn’t work! If only I hadn’t taken those pictures of the grocery store!” Tragedy.
When I was at work today, I kept asking the people around me what they thought about the radio/flashlight/six-hundred-pounds-of-batteries thing. I mean, I’ve never lived any place that had hurricanes before I moved down here, so I’m not too sure what to do.
On one hand, I feel like everyone is over-reacting, getting all crazy about something that will turn out to not be a big deal (around these parts, I mean—I’m not saying it won’t be a big deal to the people that lose their homes, where the hurricane actually does damage). On the other hand, I’m sure there were people at the last hurricane saying the same thing: “That? Shit, that ain’t no thing. I’ve lived here for seventeen years, through hurricanes and all kinds of other stuff. I’m good.”
At work today, I was talking to this chick I work with. “What do you think?” I asked her.
“What do you mean?”
“This radio/flashlight/six-hundred-pounds-of-batteries thing. Is it necessary?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you buying any of this shit?”
“I honestly can’t decide. Are you?”
“I don’t know,” I told her. “I don’t want to get caught up in the frenzy, but I’m going to feel like a complete asshole if I need a portable radio and don’t have one, what with me working in an electronics store and all.”
But that’s it for me tonight, kids. I want to offer my prayers to the hurricane victims in general—from Katrina and Rita—and I want to throw a shout-out to my boy Ramos, in specific. A fellow Strangelander (even though he doesn’t post for shit) and a good guy, and he’s Houston people.
You need a place to stay, you got one, brotha—but you have to wear those tight pink shorts I like so much. Hope you're safe.
Night, Li'l Homies.