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Grocery shopping becomes a game of chance

I got up at 05:15 to use the bathroom. I thought about going back to bed, but as I washed my hands, I realized I had better take care of a particular task, or I may not get that chance.

That task: reserving times at Walmart in Salina and Hays to pick up groceries and household goods, notably toilet cleaners and paper plates.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated panic buying of anything and everything. The panic buying began shortly after the Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV, but throughout February, it was limited to cleaning wipes, cleaning sprays, paper towels and tissues.

With nine days left in March, nothing is immune to hoarders. Store shelves are picked clean, and trying to reserve items to be picked up is challenging not only because of the empty shelves, but because stores–Walmart and Dillons in my case–are severely restricting the times which items can be picked up.

Walmart is not allowing any reservations past the next day; i.e., I could not reserve a Tuesday pickup time last night, prompting me to do my shopping before 06:00. I got reservations at 12:00 in Hays and 17;00 in Salina.

Dillons is worse. I sneaked into a Tuesday evening slot at the store on Ohio Street in Salina last Friday, but when I tried to find another slot, there was nothing available for three days anywhere. A precious few slots for Wednesday and Thursday in Hays have opened this morning.

I’m going to be making three stops tomorrow, with a session with Crista at 13:00 wedged in. Walmart in Hays is before Crista, and Salina is after. The times in Salina are late enough so I can do whatever else I need to do in Hays, including a long wait in a drive-thru, before heading east on Interstate 70. At least I’ve mastered the art of ordering with an app at Taco Bell, McDonald’s and Sonic.

I’m driving this week, so I’d better get to Salina when I can. The diabetic ulcer on the big toe on my right foot has left me in a cast for the better part of the last seven weeks. It has healed very well, and with COVID-19 shutting down everything, there’s no downside to staying home all the time. Buzztime trivia, chess, Lifetime movies and naps pass the time.

While I have reserved items at three stores, whether or not I actually get those items is a crap shoot.

Last Friday, the Dillons in Hays could not get me any bacon. Nothing. My dad, who drove me to my appointment at Hays Medical Center for continued care on the toe, and I didn’t dare go inside to see if there was any on the shelf. The parking lot was filled, and I’m sure social distancing rules were being violated left and right inside the store.

There were no napkins in my Walmart order last Thursday. Fortunately I got them at Dillons.

Dillons is being stubborn by not allowing orders from their deli for pickup, meaning you have to go into the store if you want sliced ham, turkey, salami or other cold cuts and cheese. I like the Salina Dillons because it sells Boar’s Head, but I don’t know if I’m willing to fight the mob tomorrow night.

One thing I have not attempted to order: toilet paper. I have 19 mega rolls of Charmin Ultra Soft in my bathroom, so I’m probably good until at least August. And I will not consider the stupid “flushable” wipes, because toilets have become clogged numerous times using them, whether it be at home or at a hotel.

I also have not tried to order bottled water. As long as Russell’s municipal supply does not get contaminated, we’re in good shape with that as well.

If you want toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, wipes, hand sanitizer, hand soap or most other cleaning supplies, Walmart is kind enough to say they are out of stock. Dillons gets your hopes up thinking it might be in stock by allowing you to add it to your order, only for you to get a message the morning of your scheduled pickup telling you “we’re sorry, but these items are out of stock”.

Target is not allowing paper products and cleaning supplies to be reserved online for pickup orders. Again, you have to go into the store and fight the mob. I still have two full bottles of hand soap I bought at Target in January.

I seriously considered a Sam’s Club membership–there’s a store in Salina–but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. I might change my mind later.

In 1999, King of the Hill aired an episode on the Y2K fear, “Hillennium”, which predicted a possible toilet paper shortage one day.

Dale Gribble, the most paranoid character in the history of television animation, hoarded toilet paper, Mountain Dew, cookies and dozens of other items. Hank Hill bought Peggy a computer for Christmas, and fearing the machine would not be Y2K compliant, Bobby, Peggy and Luanne Platter (Rest in Peace, Brittany Murphy) began to hoard toilet paper like Dale.

Bobby is elated when he receives toilet paper as his Christmas present. Come New Year’s Eve, he is deathly afraid to come outside and join Hank, Boomhauer, Bill, Kahn and the rest of Rainey Street for fireworks. Finally, Bobby comes to his senses, and Hank uses the hoarded toilet paper to start a bonfire.

My dad was fortunate to find toilet paper in Russell’s grocery store last week. He also found three boxes of tissues at Dollar General. They aren’t the Puffs scented with Vicks I prefer, but I’ll take anything in an emergency.

I can order some food online. I have a delivery from Wolferman’s Bakery with English muffins (corn meal and sourdough) and bread (all sourdough) arriving today, and Wednesday, six cases of TaB cola and 12 bottles of Louisiana Fish Fry tartar sauce (for the fish I’m eating each Friday) is coming from Amazon.

I can’t find TaB anywhere anymore, and I like its taste due to it being sweetened with saccharin and not aspartame or sucralose. I used to smuggle TaB back from Kansas City, but it’s disappeared. I was going to check other markets on my LSU baseball trip, but that’s not happening, either.

Bread is scarce,and it’s doubtful I’ll get to Kansas City before June in order to buy the sourdough I like so much. What’s worse is Farm to Market, the company which makes the great sourdough, won’t sell it online. They’re missing out. The Wolferman’s sourdough will do well in a pinch.

I also ordered cleaning supplies from the Grove Collaborative, including the same hand soap I buy at Target. If it comes by the end of next week (April 3), I’ll be happy. I have plenty to get by until then.

Could Daytona 500 be about something else? Maybe

About an hour after I wrote yesterday’s post, I realized a funny moment relating to the Daytona 500.

During a 2005 episode of Fox’s great animated series, King of the Hill, Joseph Gribble tells his best friend, Bobby Hill, about a program called “Daytona 500”. Joseph says he thinks it’s about a “chick pouring champagne on a dude”. Bobby then asks “500 what? 500 bachelors? 500 dwarves?”, then exclaims, “Oh God, I’m so excited!”.

Bobby and Joseph have to find out the password to Hank and Peggy’s parental controls, since they have locked the Fox network outside of the NFL season. Bobby correctly guesses “propane” and unlocks Fox. The boys avoid detection by Luanne, Peggy’s niece, and they settle in to watch “Daytona 500”.

The boys find out it’s “just a bunch of cars going around in circles”. They are keenly disappointed until there’s a crash. The boys love it.

It was pretty funny for the boys to think Daytona 500 was a broadcast from spring break in Daytona Beach. If Daytona 500 were about spring break, I would have even less reason to watch than I do the race.

The episode where Bobby and Joseph watch the Daytona 500 features one of the most hilarious moments in King of the Hill history.

During the episode, Hank is pouring fresh concrete in his driveway. Bill, Dale and Boomhauer beg to help, and Hank agrees. Hank rents a jackhammer to tear up the driveway, and lets each of his pals use it. Instead of using the tool for its intended purpose, the guys try to “ride” the vibrating jackhammer.

Boomhauer lasts nine seconds before he is thrown into a bush, a reference to the eight seconds a rodeo cowboy attempts to last on a bucking bronc. When Bill tries, he immediately gets hit in the groin.

King of the Hill was one of my favorite shows. Still is. Of Fox’s animated shows, King of the Hill is a clear #1, followed by American Dad (which is now on TBS), then Family Guy a distant third. I watched The Simpsons early in its run, but haven’t in 20 years. I don’t miss it one bit. I haven’t taken to Bob’s Burgers, and I didn’t watch Futurama when it was on Fox.

I’m about to leave. Caitlyn is playing with her Norton teammates at Beloit. It’s the postseason, win or go home. Hopefully the Bluejays won’t be going home.