Every time I go shopping here, something weird happens. Usually I blame my lousy Spanish, but today fault lies with my trolley.
To be honest, I was lucky to even get one. There were none left at the entry, but after browsing a few aisles I came across one that was unattended. I stared it down, wondering how someone would respond if they saw a confused looking Gringo cruising off with their trolley and a dorky grin.
I pondered the situation for a moment; an empty, unattended trolley? Finders keepers.
As I made my way through the supermarket, I realised just how lucky my find was. The place was packed, and there were far from enough trolleys to go around. Most people had to carry their shopping; something that’s difficult to do in a packed supermarket. However, everyone seemed to be buying just two things- toilet paper and toothpaste. As staff wheeled out a trolley full of toilet paper, people crowded around, catching rolls that were tossed out.
Companies are constantly cutting off basic goods, and the private media here does everything it can to exacerbate shortages by whipping up public fear.
People are generally pretty calm in Merida, and everyone was restricted to just 8 rolls of paper, and two tubes of toothpaste, limiting hoarding.
While waiting in line at the cashier, people around me started asking if they could put their armfuls of shopping in my trolley. I didn’t mind, and within a few minutes my trolley was full of toothpaste and toilet paper.
One woman struck up a conversation with me about the shortages. Like so many here, she blamed companies that allegedly try to manipulate the electorate by cutting off goods just before an election. But, when she realised I wasn’t buying any toothpaste or paper, she gave me a sympathetic look. A moment later two more tubes of toothpaste, and some rolls of paper were thrust into my trolley. I tried to explain that I already have plenty at home, but it was no use. She gave me an all knowing nod that seemed to say, “you’ll thank me when you’re still brushing your teeth and not tearing pages out of your notebook next month”.
Sure, I now have a ridiculous amount of toilet paper and toothpaste, but I went away feeling pretty good. Despite the difficulties here, people are generally good-willed, if a little quirky. They dump their shopping in your trolley, then check to make sure you aren’t missing out on anything in short supply.