Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Last week I had the rather eerie experience of shopping in a half-empty supermarket - "half-empty" referring to the shelves, not the number of people in the store. Due to severe weather issues many stores had missed out on getting deliveries for several days; as a result, the supermarket's inventory was running low in multiple departments. The bread aisle was completely empty except for a half-dozen loaves of raisin bread, and the only toilet paper left in the store was two jumbo-sized packs of a bargain brand.

By the time I came by to do my shopping, deliveries had resumed and employees were beginning to cart pallets out of the stockroom, but it was still a surreal sight to see so many empty shelves. And yet for most people in most parts of the world (and in just about any past era), the concept of a supermarket stocked with every imaginable type of food would seem like an inconceivably wild dream.

It's easy to take for granted just how incredibly privileged I am to live in a time and a place where I can afford to assume that my basic needs will be met today, tomorrow and into the foreseeable future. Whether I'm in the mood for a burrito or a steak or a carton of raspberries, chances are I don't have to go very far to obtain it, much less worry about where my next meal is going to come from.

It makes me wonder how long I'd survive if I were suddenly thrust into the conditions that most of the world's population face on a daily basis. Smart as I am in a bookish sort of way, it's hard to say whether you'd be better off betting for or against me.

Something to ponder as I go back to playing around on my computer in my warm, comfortable apartment with its fully stocked kitchen.


Anonymous said...

When I came back from Belize, the airline had lost my luggage, so I had to go and buy some basics, like underwear and toothpaste. My friend took me to the local Zellers (the Canadian equivilant of Walmart), and I was so overwhelmed by all the stock, I started piling things into my cart. My friend, who had picked me up from the airport, had to stop me and remind me that all of that stuff would still be there later, I did not need 5 bottles of shampoo, 12 pairs of socks, 6 boxes of kleenex, etc... it's amazing the abundance we live in! I was not exactly living in squalor in Belize, but... well, compared with the prosperity we have in North America it was a bit of a shock.

Christine Bakke said...

I have thought the same thing...

I still don't have a passport (still waiting on that new social security card...supposedly it will take an act of congress to get me one) - so I don't even have anything to compare to. But yeah, I was in a grocery store last night and it was so strange seeing all the empty shelves in the grocery area. Fortunately, I drink rice milk. Not much of a run on that. ;)