By Dan Haag
On a Monday afternoon in the Warrenton Costco, I made the fateful decision to wander into the aisle that houses the toilet paper. I didn’t really need any, quite honestly. Because I have lived on the Oregon Coast for nearly 30 years, I’ve made a habit of keeping extra stocks of essentials on hand in case of emergency: canned food, batteries, candles, flashlights, etc. And since much of my canned food reserve consists of some manner of beans, I find it prudent to keep my toilet paper stocks full. I’m good to go, in a manner of speaking.
But the hysteria of the last few weeks made a little voice in the back of my head question my toilet paper readiness. It wondered if I should shove my way into the gladiatorial arena that is now the Costco toilet paper aisle and secure at least another thousand rolls. You know, just to be on the safe side.
Somehow, I resisted the urge and bustled my way out of the store before I was challenged to a duel for standing to close to the wrong pallet. Being run over by an angry mob grappling for the last case of Clorox wipes is not high on my list of heroic ways to die.
The uncertainty that is surrounding the Covid-19 situation is suffocating. What comes next? What should I do? Will bathing in a barrel of Purell twice a day make me immune? Frustratingly, there are no right answers, no template to follow. By the time we’ve absorbed the latest news on it, another wave of news kicks down the door and throws a pie in our faces. I freely admit to an elevated level of stress over it, particularly when I witness what I assume are normally decent people coming to blows over various paper products.
It all feels pretty helpless.
Except that it really isn’t.
The beauty of the Oregon Coast – aside from the natural aspect – is the collection of extremely close-knit communities. These towns are home to people who have made their dreams of owning a small business a reality. These businesses are the heart of soul of each of these villages, from Astoria to Brookings. And the very real, very human collateral damage of this pandemic comes in the form of seeing boarded up doors and windows in the place of local watering holes and grocery stores. There’s no super bug in the world that can scare me as much as that scenario.
One blessing from my day job is that I know every one of the merchants in Manzanita, Nehalem, and Wheeler. It’s not a stretch to call each of them my friend. They have all worked hard to carve out a piece of their dream in this beautiful spot.
So when I look around my towns and see empty shops and ‘Vacancy’ signs, it makes me lose sleep. Without Manzanita Lumber or Stockton’s Lumber there won’t be anyone who immediately understands what I mean when I ask for “that shiny thingy that fixes my broken flange-looking thingy.” Without The Little Apple, where will I get my weekly lunch order of Mongolian beef (something I might actually engage in fisticuffs over). Without Cloud & Leaf Bookstore, how will I continue to feed my desire to purchase every book ever written? Without Nehalem Bay Winery, where will I go during the summer to hear outdoor music and get laughed at by small children for my spastic middle-age dance moves? The list of local names and places I’d feel gutted without goes on and on and on.
So please, make a vow with me.
Right here, right now.
Shop locally, now more than ever. The worst damage Covid-19 will do is causing shuttered shop windows in small communities around the world. Don’t let that happen here. If you can’t leave your house, whether it’s in Portland or just a few blocks from your favorite shop, restaurant or hotel, go online or call them up and buy a gift certificate. Give it as a birthday gift. Use it as a stocking stuffer. Save it to treat yourself when this has all become a memory. It may take a village to raise a child. But it also takes the villagers to support their merchants. Not letting the wheels of local commerce grind to a halt is the ultimate act of solidarity.
To show you how easy it is, I’ll go first and wander into the beer cooler at Manzanita Fresh Foods. Because beer is definitely something that I never seem to have enough of at home, pandemic or no.