Thursday, April 30, 2009

Groceries of Mass Panic

"I found the perfect term for you," my husband told me recently, "You're a Googlechondriac."

"Excuse me?" I asked icily.

"I read it online somewhere. It's like a hypochondriac, but who self-diagnoses using Google to find the worst case medical scenario," he said.

"Hm," I said, affecting disinterest but thinking damn, that's totally me.

I am that unfortunate trifecta of being fascinated by all things medical (my wealth of knowledge culled not entirely from ER, House, and Grey's Anatomy), having an overactive imagination, and feeling the sneaking suspicion that I am going to fall in the small percentages. When my OB tried to brush aside my childbirth concerns by telling me that 9 out of 10 women have perfectly normal births, it took all my self-control to nod and smile like a sane person when I felt like clutching him by his papery old white guy neck and screaming, Yeah? Well, what about the other one, buddy?? Ever think about her?? The one who bleeds out and dies on the delivery table???

It was around the six month prenatal visit during my pregnancy with Bear, when I mentioned that I was pretty sure I had some obscure pregnancy-related syndrome, that the same OB asked if I did a lot of reading? Like, say, medical books?

"Why, yes, I do," I told him smugly, fancying that the knowing glint in his eye was his recognition of another member of the Medically Savvy.

Turning to my husband, he said bluntly, "Take them away from her," made a quick notation on my chart and left.

So the people who know me best were not entirely surprised by my reaction to Swine Flu this week. And by reaction I mean my doing everything short of throwing a world map up on the living room wall and charting the minute-by-minute spread of the global pandemic that's going to KILL US ALL BY NEXT WEEK OMIGOD. Let's just say there was a little bit of obsessive "refresh" clicking while I sat glued to the CNN website. Also some hand-washing. OK, a lot of hand-washing. Really, really thorough hand-washing. Then...then came The Groceries of Mass Panic.

Sidebar & Confession: Have you ever read "The Long Winter" by Laura Ingalls Wilder? Specifically the part where they're stranded by blizzards all winter and can't get supplies into town because the trains can't get through, and they run out of food and have to grind wheat in their hand-crank coffee grinder to make one tiny loaf of bread a day for the six of them to share? It left a lasting impression on me when I read it in third grade. To this day I have a horror/fascination of being stranded at home and having to make do on whatever groceries are in the house. (Secretly I like to think I could rock it and whip up awesome meals using only ingredients like canned peaches and Top Ramen).

But I'm not taking any chances, and usually have enough food to feed a medium-sized army on hand at all times. One of my kid's friends, staring open-mouthed at our array of cereals once said, "I didn't even know they made that many kinds of cereal." Also, I like choices. If I feel like Raisin Bran, I don't want to have to make do with Shredded Wheat or Honey Bunches of Oats. This way, my options are open, plus we're covered if, say, there's an ice-storm (realistic) or a nuclear detonation (not-quite-so-realistic, but we'd be all set on cereal if there was).

When Governor Baldacci interrupted Oprah on Wednesday to announce three confirmed cases of Swine Flu (note to CDC: H1N1 is never going to have the same ring to it, give it up) in Maine, I snapped to immediate attention. All Mainers should go to the Maine CDC website for further infor..., he said. I was logging on to the site before -mation was out of his mouth. And it was on that site that I saw the magical words:

To plan for a pandemic:
Store a two week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand. This can be useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and disasters.

Say no more, my friend. Say. No. More. I was at the grocery store at 7:45 the next morning, list in hand.

It wasn't until later in the day when I was putting away the bags and bags (and bags) of canned goods that I began to feel slightly embarrassed. I can actually pinpoint my mental shift to exactly the moment I was trying to figure out whether to shelve the eight cans of refried beans next to the twenty cans of fruit? or behind the God-help-me eighteen boxes of Kraft Mac 'n Cheese? Then my gaze fell on the two glass jars of capers that I swear I don't remember putting in the cart, but obviously did. What the hell was I thinking? That we might be quarantined for Swine Flu and there would be a sudden Chicken Piccata Emergency? Humanity might be dropping like flies, but by GOD, we can still make chicken piccata.

I might have also shelved fourteen cans of soup.

We hate canned soup.

However! I'm pleased to report that I've regained some perspective and am barely even freaking out at all anymore. Just ... don't sneeze, cough, or look feverish in my vicinity. I'm still a tad sensitive to that, and I can't be responsible for my hair-trigger reaction if you do.

Don't make me whip the industrial-sized bottle of hand sanitizer out of my purse. Or break out the (*blush*) four boxes of surgical masks in my bathroom cupboard.


smalltownmom said...

After seeing a second grader stick his finger up his nose and then put same finger into his mouth, just seconds before he was going to use the class computer....I'm all for precautions. Don't worry, I made him wash his hands before he touched anything.

Jen on the Edge said...

You should see my pantry. My version of stocking up for an emergency means making sure we have enough chocolate, supplies for nachos/tacos/enchiladas, and plenty of sodas/juice/beer.

jenn said...

smalltownmom: why I couldn't teach 2nd grade, right there. You deserve a medal.

Jen: emergency + no chocolate = worst possible case scenario. There are candy bars in my freezer at ALL times. Also Girl Scout cookies.

DaddyS said...

I am looking forward to a bowl of mac and cheese piccata.

Nana said...

I can't imagine where you got the notion that you should stay stocked up on groceries in case of...well, in case of anything! You have, however, surpassed me in the number of boxes of cereal we always had going at one time. But this doesn't surprise me since you've been a cerealholic since what? age two?? I'm glad to read that you have remembered the importance/necessity of having chocolate in the house AT ALL TIMES. Good girl!

alison said...

When I was 5 months pregnant with Leah, part of my right leg went numb. I googled and had myself convinced I had MS. I tracked my OB down at the hospital (she was on call that day) and cornered her in an exam room in floods of tears about how was I going to raise a child if I had MS. She was very understanding. She hugged me, handed me a kleenex, and said, "Oh, Alison, you don't have MS. The baby is just compressing a nerve. It happens all the time. A month or so after the baby's born, the feeling will come back. Don't worry." I felt about 2 inches tall. And sure enough, exactly a month after Leah was born, my leg felt normal again.

A little Google is a dangerous thing.

And I don't have an emergency preparedness kit, so I guess I should get shoppin' for chocolate.

Lindsay said...

Your post didn't have me thinking you were crazy. It had me wondering where I would store twenty gallons of water if I had to ;)...and I totally am going to start (slowly) buying up some gallons of it when I shop.

Grandma said...

Holy smokes! We only have two boxes of ceral in our pantry (we are not ceral or mac and cheese eaters, but my dark chocolate supply is fine. However, maybe I better go out and buy some more, just in case:-) Oh, do not forget the red wine:-)

Jenia said...

Your blogs almost always are guaranteed to make me chuckle, this one had me laughing out loud.
I think a great deal of this wonderful humor was lost on us high schoolers (I'd like to think I got some of it then...)

Enjoy the capers!

Cindy said...

I told my husband about Googlechondriac and it's definition. Big mistake. I'm never going to hear the end of it now.

Dawn in Austin said...

OMG! You crack me up. Mostly because I think you're my twin from another mother. My doctor can always tell when I've "read up" before I come in to see her.

Good luck with the swine flu in Maine. I'm in Texas. Yeah, don't think I haven't stocked my shelves to the ceiling. I may be the only one who lives here right now, but evidently, I'm prepared to take in refugees.

jenn said...

Allison: MS! That's one I've missed self-diagnosing myself with...must get on that ASAP.

Jenia: You were one of the few who always got my jokes. :)

Dawn & Cindy: I'm so glad to hear I'm not alone! Doctors must roll their eyes when they see us coming...

Nora said...

I am also a food hoarder. And a hand-washing freak. Just don't look up the photos of microscropic critters on unwashed hands and hair not in a hair net, okay? Don't do it.