I have this sudden desire to make French toast. It’s 3:18 AM Central Standard Time on February 9, 2011, and I ate dinner hours ago, and more recently I prepared myself a late-night snack. But enjoying a full stomach very early on a Wednesday morning doesn’t make me crave the French toast any less. What matters is it’s 10 degrees outside, and the wind is howling at 35 miles per hour, and it’s snowing heavily.
Since it’s snowing, that means I need French toast. And I need it now.
But there’s a problem. When I go to the store, there’s no bread on the shelves. There are no eggs. I do find a few cartons of milk, but they aren’t really milk but almond milk, Silk-brand Pure Almond Dark Chocolate Milk with ExtraAntioxidants.
Actually, I’m lying about the bread. There’s one lonely loaf left, dressed up in a shiny blue bag, with the alliterative name Blueberry Breakfast Bread. I doubt it would taste very good as part of a ham sandwich, but I suppose it would make decent French toast. But I don’t really want to make French toast. I was lying about that, too, because I’m in the minority. Apparently, when it snows, the only thing people in Oklahoma can think about is their precious French toast. Although when I wander over to the baking aisle, I see no one has bothered to snatch up all the vanilla extract. Maybe people around here don’t make French toast with vanilla extract. They probably chicken fry it. (Actually my mom used to make French toast this way, by breading it. The first time I ever saw the more accepted recipe I had no idea what the hell it was.)
Anyway I do pick up plenty of other grocery items, like a ribeye steak and a package of chicken breasts and some ground turkey. In fact the entire meat section is fully stocked. Apparently no one feels like consuming protein when it’s cold outside. Just comforting, insulating carbs to help them stay warm inside their climate-controlled homes. I also grab some Yukon Gold potatoes, which are all that’s left of the potatoes, even though Yukon Golds taste better than the others. I always wondered why the store shelves the better-tasting potatoes over here in the corner and places the bland, bestselling Russets out front where everyone can find them. I suppose Russet pays a premium for those high traffic areas.
While I’m in line to pay for my precious groceries, some guy with an earnest voice gets on the PA system and announces that a batch of fresh French bread is now available in the bakery. No less than ten people sacrifice their places in line upon hearing the news. I can’t help but picture them at some later time, standing in their kitchens, slicing these loaves into little pieces, struggling with full-size lunch meats, frustrated at their incongruous sandwiches, at the injustice of it all.
What’s really funny is next door to the grocery store is a bakery. I pass this bakery on the way to the liquor store. When I go inside, the bakery is so full of bread you would think the loaves were self-replicating. They have every kind of bread you can imagine in there. I don’t understand why they don’t put some guy outside with a megaphone yelling, “FORGET ABOUT THE BLUEBERRY BREAKFAST BREAD. WE’RE SELLING REAL BREAD WE BAKED JUST NOW, YOU MYOPIC FOOLS.” On the other hand, the bakery doesn’t have very good signage. I didn’t know it was here until six months ago, and I’ve lived nearby for almost eleven years.
Some of you are already aware that I made this trip to the grocery store on foot. The reason for this is because unlike a lot of these idiots, I live in a neighborhood with curvy streets and steep hills. When it snows a lot, or when there’s ice, I literally cannot drive up my street. Which is fine by me. When storms approach, I buy plenty of groceries in advance and plan to be stranded. I pretend like I’m camping. It’s fun. In fact the only reason I walked to the store at all is because I was bored, and because I wanted to eat a steak and enjoy a few cocktails while I watched the Super Bowl. But that doesn’t stop people, when they realize I’m walking to the store, from making brilliant comments like “I bet you wish you had a four-wheel drive truck right now!”
I get cabin fever like anyone does. Of course I do. But just because I’m cooped up in my house for a week doesn’t mean I wish I had leased a different vehicle for 36 months. 36 months equals 1,095 days, unless one of them is a leap month, in which case it equals 1096 days. I’m stranded at my house because of the weather for maybe ten of those days. That’s less than one percent of the time. I have nothing against SUVs and pickup trucks (that’s not true, I hate them), and I don’t mind if someone else wants to own one, but why on earth would I? I see these guys proudly driving around in their boxes on wheels, and for a moment I believe I’m telepathic, because I can actually hear their thoughts. You know what they’re thinking? They’re thinking, “Look at me! Today I put the truck in four-wheel drive! I’m a badass!”
But you know what? I can’t really make fun of that. The reason I can’t is because my car gets about the same gas mileage as a pickup or an SUV. Honestly I should be ashamed of myself. Whether or not the typical owner makes use of it, a pickup at least possesses the potential for utility. My car can make no such claim. In order to build a V6 engine with more than 300 horsepower, some concessions must be made, including fuel economy. But fuck it. I need that power. My car can hit nearly 160 mph, and that’s something I do on a daily basis: drive 100 mph over the speed limit. Why on earth would I go anywhere if I couldn’t do it at 160 miles per hour?
I could summarize this by declaring that people behave strangely. But that really isn’t true. What’s true is people behave differently than you expect them to or want them to. You think it’s silly that some people stock up on bread and milk and eggs before a big snowstorm, but they think you’re stupid for living in a hilly neighborhood when you don’t own a four-wheel drive vehicle. You think they’re wrong for living in an old, drafty house cursed with exposed pipes that freeze every time it gets cold, and they think you’re soulless because you live in a new house that possesses no character. You think they should dress with more style. They think you’re a hipster doofus.
Personally, I think everyone but me and maybe six other people in the world are idiots. But don’t be too angry with me. As I write this, it’s 4:12 in the morning, the wind chill is 15 below zero, and I’m about to go for a walk. My sister and I did this one time as kids, wandered around our snowy neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning, and now it’s like programming code I can’t erase. I do it every time there’s a big snowstorm. It doesn’t make any sense.
But honestly, what does?
Addendum: 5:53 AM. Just returned from walk. More than two inches of new snow since I left. Chanda, you should’ve been there. <3