Opinion: The perception of shortage

It feels like writing about anything other than the coronavirus or COVID-19 is futile. So, let me share some thoughts on it, especially as the manager of a supermarket during this time.

One of my customers said something that helps explain the current run on grocery shelves creating anxiety for many. She said, “I am not sure why I am shopping but I feel I have to because everyone else is.” Indeed, others have said similar comments.

Here’s the thing, unlike 9-11 or Superstorm Sandy, transportation and production lines remain. Therefore, the delivery of product to stores continues uninterrupted. Of course, there are some exceptions like hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes, but food basics and even toilet paper are still being delivered. However, because people are panicked, they are buying as much as possible the moment items are restocked, creating the perception that there is a shortage on everything.

If we just buy what we normally would for a few days or the week, shelves would be stocked on most items and relieve the stress caused by seeing drastic shortages.

My wife joked the other day about how come it seems that I always have a job involved in the crisis. During Sandy in 2012, I was the District Chief of Staff to former Congressman Bob Turner. He represented some of the hardest hit areas of the storm including the Rockaway’s in Queens, and Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach here in Brooklyn.

I still remember in the immediate aftermath touring these areas with Turner and other officials. In fact, I was with the Congressman in the car when he received a call from President Obama traveling on Air Force One to get an update on conditions on the ground.

Today’s crisis is less defined, and therefore is scarier to many. There are more unknowns.

After 9-11 we knew the enemy and took them on directly. After Sandy, we knew we had to hunker down and rebuild. But with the coronavirus, its effects on our normal life are more massive. Now, we can’t even go to a bar and blow off steam with our fellow New Yorkers.

It all seems like we are living through a movie or book, never thinking something like this could really happen. Now, our grandchildren will be reading in the history books about these days.

We pray that those pages say it was a short-lived crisis, where New Yorkers and Americans bound together and came back stronger and more united, and ended the recent toxicity in our politics.

Bob Capano has worked for Brooklyn Republican and Democrat elected officials, and has been an adjunct political science professor for over 15 years. Follow him on twitter @bobcapano.