By Larry Levine –

Gelson’s Market opened at 7:00 this morning. I arrive at 7:10. Both parking lots were full, but someone pulled out right in front of me and I had a space. I entered the market and found long lines at the checkout stands. I asked the manager what time they opened. He told me 7:00 and there were 100 people lined up at each entrance waiting to get in. No shopping carts anywhere in sight. I followed a woman into the parking lot and got her cart after she unloaded her groceries. How did all these people get in and out with full shopping cards so quickly?

Back in the store. The potato and onion bins were empty. No bananas. No broccoli, carrots or mushrooms. Plenty of asparagus. Lots of apples, pears and Pixie tangerines. Not many tomatoes.

Elsewhere in the market: no eggs, a few quarts of non-fat milk but no other milk. Some high-end butter. Plenty of yogurt. I bought the last of the wild king salmon and some bay shrimp, buffalo mozzarella cheese and cherry tomatoes.

Very few boxes of crackers left. No chicken. Delivery expected sometime later today. A few turkey legs. A few lamb chops. No steaks, ground meat of any kind. No sausages but a little bacon. Lots of corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day (cabbage, but no potatoes).

Still no toilet paper, but people buying the limit of paper towels. Very little dish soap. No wipes or disinfectant. Didn’t check the pet food. Shopping cards were heavy with canned goods. Bottled water shelves picked clean.

Checkout lines remained long but everyone was friendly. People talking, sharing stories, even laughing. But … All events with 250 or more people have been cancelled, yet here in the market there were hundreds of people in the aisles and checkout lines. One woman said she was at Ralph’s Market at 6:10 and there were no parking spaces with about 15 cars circling looking for space. A friend told us it took 45 minutes for her to get into the Trader Joe’s parking lot yesterday. Costco? Not on your life.

I was back in the house an hour and a quarter after I arrived at the market. Not bad. I didn’t need much, just enough for dinner tonight. As I was leaving, I met a woman in the parking lot and offered her my empty shopping cart. She said she was there just to buy water. “Not going to happen,” I told her. She left.

We were the wise ones, we early arrivals. Those coming later aren’t going to find much. The store staff tells us they will be getting deliveries but have no idea when. It’s a crap shoot. If you happen to arrive soon after one of the deliveries, you will be able to access that product, at least for a while. Or you could camp out and wait for the various deliveries. In the meantime, the wine shelves are full.

To be sure, some of this is caution. But to look at the overflowing shopping carts, it seems most of it is panic. As this is a non-political piece, I’ll leave it to the reader to fill in the source of the panic.

Keep safe.