The panic buying brought on by too much fear, too much money, too much credit, too much time, and not enough common sense has reminded me of something that happened some years ago.

Christina, I, our 8-year-old daughter and her friend (we’ll call her Amy) were on an all-day drive to visit my mother.  About noon the girls said they were hungry.  I told them in a few exits they could choose from a Wendy’s, Burger King, McDonald’s, or a Jack in the box.  After some discussion, they settled on Wendy’s.  I made the off-hand comment that when I was their age there were no fast food places.  Amy’s response to that was, “Well what did you eat?”.

So, how does that relate to today’s crisis you may ask?  Just that the recollection reminded me of how spoiled we have become.

Most people in the developed world today don’t remember a time when they couldn’t go into a store and buy whatever they wanted.  With many store shelves empty today a new reality has hit us flush in the face.

You can no longer go into a gas station, pharmacy, or grocery store to get food, paper goods, and cleaning supplies.  You can’t pop into your closest store and select a couple of your favorite steaks, a loaf of French bread, some toilet paper and a six-pack of imported spring water.  Your favorite store, if even open, has bare shelves greeting you.  You are lucky if they have any meat, any paper goods, anything to drink, and anything resembling bread or even flour to make bread.

The conditions are compounded by some idiots upstream that have decided that welcome centers, rest stops, and interstate gas stations should be closed.  Some have even opted to allow trucks into their states only by appointment.  Do these fools think food is brought to the grocery stores by the tooth fairy?

For some reason that is beyond me, the panic buying has centered on toilet paper (among a few other non-essentials).  News flash.  Running out of TP is not a life-threatening condition, merely a mild inconvenience.  There are options such as paper towels, paper napkins, and facial tissues.  Then when those are exhausted try the pages of magazines as we did in the days of outhouses.  When all else fails there are washcloths and rags.

No, you don’t throw them away, you wash them and use them again.  For those of you that have lived long enough, you will recall that we used to do that with diapers.  When out of laundry soap, use your food grater to grate a bit of soap from your bath bar.  When you run out of that there are still a few us around that know how to make soap.

The reality is that we are both spoiled and virtually helpless as to taking care of ourselves.  The day is gone when we could grow our own food, mend our clothing, and cope with adverse conditions.

The day will come when the stores are restocked.  The real questions are will we have learned anything by this experience and will we do anything to be better prepared for the next crisis?

Your thoughts?


Ken Vincent
Ken Vincent
KEN is a 46 year veteran hotelier and entrepreneur. Formerly owned two hotels, an advertising agency, a wholesale tour company, a POS company, a leasing company, and a hotel management company. The hotels included chain owned, franchises, and independents. They ranged in type from small luxury inns, to limited service properties, to large convention hotels and resorts. After retiring he authored a book, “So Many Hotels, So Little Time” in which he relates what life is like behind the scenes for a hotel manager. Ken operated more that 100 hotels and resorts in the US and Caribbean and formed eight companies. He is a firm believer that senior management should share their knowledge and experience with the next generation of management.

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  1. Ken, I enjoyed reading your article. No small part of the hysteria is due to the media who at times are hyping things to the maximum level. The fact that every day brings a new prediction of when this will end which is usually worse than the day before. The times have changed that precipitated some of this. There are shortages of food that must be addressed. We are living in very uncertain times. When you see pictures of patients lined up on floors of Emergency Rooms or stuffed into every nook and cranny some or many of whom will die it is very sobering. We need a healthy dose of compassion and understanding. Each of us must cope in a way that makes us feel better.

  2. Fabulous as always Ken. You strike a goal with all that you have conveyed. Many of us do not know how to survive like our parents could. People younger than my generation are even more spoiled and privileged.

    Like I read somewhere, Mother nature has thrown at us a very tough practice session on how to survive, how to respect nature and other beings, how not to stay entitled, how to care for the climate and how a tiny virus holds more power over us.

    Will we humans learn. Sadly, I am not very optimistic about it.

  3. ‘History repeats itself;’ so says the adage. Well, we see it unfold in front of our eyes, the situation and the circumstances may be different though.

    Dear Ken Sir, you absolute command of time travel techniques reinforces the readers’ faith in improvisation, thanks for that.

    Warm regards, with a prayer for all!

  4. Some folks are dealing with this more successfully than others. Most folks I know are being pretty resilient and sensible. I don’t know if I’m one of the spoiled ones or not or virtually helpless to take care of myself. Who are the “we” that this applies to?

  5. You hit upon some absolute “truisms” Ken.
    Both of my late parents grew up as children in the Great Depression. Earlier on they learned to “make do” or “do without”. Sometimes in life you learn that “less” is “more” temporally and more importantly, spiritually. Now I think that I should look around for the Sear & Roebuck Catalog just in case!