I Feel Ridiculous

By Peter McManus

I have a confession to make. Today I bought a lifetime supply of plastic sheeting.

I happened to drive by a Lowe’s, when I remembered that I didn’t have enough plastic sheeting to survive a terror attack. Given that panic buying had already been going on for a day, I figured the shelves would be empty. Fortunately, that was not the case. And the purchase was more than just a purchase. It was a communal event.

Entering the store, I noticed that every other customer had a box or two of plastic sheeting in their shopping cart. I hurried back to aisle 19 and quickly found the appropriate shelves. They were easy to spot because an entire section of the shelf was empty, and there were several people there puzzling over the remnants.

I too puzzled over the leftovers for a moment. Obviously, the most terror-resistant plastic was already gone. “Well, what’s the best stuff to buy?” I finally asked a woman with a three-year old son. She was just as bewildered as I.

There was still a variety of plastic sheeting to choose from, in prices ranging from $4 to $40. Different manufacturers. Different widths and lengths. Clear. Black. Different thicknesses.

The woman asked me what thickness was most appropriate. At that moment I realized how woefully unprepared I was to make this purchase. Pondering the box of perilously thin looking 0.38 mil plastic sheeting in front of me, I gave her my opinion that any thickness would do, as long as you don’t puncture it. Turns out I was wrong. The woman abandoned me and asked another guy a little further down the aisle. She returned with the answer: 6 mil. So if we bought that box I was considering, we’d need 20 layers per window!

Scouring the shelves for 6 mil plastic, the woman finally said something that I had been thinking from the moment I walked into the store: “I feel ridiculous!” Though I smiled back, none of us were bold enough to affirm her feelings aloud. But I think we all felt the same way.

Then there was the issue of color. Again, it was obvious that everyone was of the same mind here. Who wants to put black plastic over their windows? Unfortunately, the pickin’s of clear plastic were few, and black was in abundance. To one disappointed woman I offered this reasoning: you’ll probably never need it, and if you do, you won’t care if it’s black.

By this time, the little three-year old boy realized that this was no ordinary purchase of plastic sheeting. He started to ask his mother some uncomfortable questions. She put him off until later.

For me, the craziness was getting to be too much. After all that contemplation, I grabbed the nearest box of 2 mil thick 10’ x 100’ super strength black plastic, paid my $16 and got the heck out of there!

Now I have to figure out what room I’ll hole up in. I’d like to stay in the kitchen, but I don’t think I can seal it off. The master bedroom would be convenient, because it has a bathroom, but I don’t know what I’ll do for food. Even though the temperature outside is in the teens, I suppose I’ll have to turn off my heat, because it circulates hot air throughout the house.

Anyway, I never did buy any duct tape – I hope I have enough.


Unpublished work © 2003 Peter McManus