May 2, 2020
Pandemic Pudding Pandemonium
Going to grocery stores over the past month has not been a pleasant experience. I don't mind having to wear a face mask, but I've quickly learned that customers and store employees alike have absolutely no regard whatsoever for the six foot rule. Pro-tip: if you happen upon a person like this who is making it their life's mission to be in your personal space, don't bother asking them to move. Just start faking long, loud coughs and gasp for breath. You'll have all the six foot clearance you need. Still, the whole process can be stressful, so it's important to make your trips to the grocery store count. Stock up on as much of the things you need in a single trip. This will help ensure that you'll have enough food and other goods for when the supply chains inevitably break down. It will also limit your number of trips to the store, thus limiting your exposure to the Covid-carrying soccer mom who is standing close enough to blow in your ear, which she can easily do from above her three week old surgical mask that hangs from her chin like a sarcastically bad cosplay of Bluebeard the Pirate.
Keep in mind that you're going to need a place to put your supplies when you get home. Recreating the Iron Throne out of carefully placed 48-count packs of Charmin Ultra Soft is all well and good, but there's a limit to the amount of furniture you can build with your groceries. Therefore, it's important that you go through the things that are already in your home. Condense the eight open boxes of pasta into a single box. Don't worry about mixing different kinds - if you're biggest concern during the apocalypse is the occasional wagon wheel in your macaroni and cheese, you're doing alright. If you're feeling especially brave, go ahead and condense your open beverage containers as well. Your quarantine-mates are sure to enjoy the Sunny Delight / Dr. Pepper / Clamato milkshake in the Kool-Aid Man pitcher. I hear the CDC is recommending it as a way to ward off the virus.
One of the fun side effects of going through your cupboards is finding things that you may have purchased and forgotten. Take, for example, this "Seasonal Release" of Jell-o Pudding Mix. I don't know what I was thinking when I bought the Classic Turtle artificial flavor. These days, I demand real turtles in my pudding. I must have purchased it in the wild, carefree days of my youth - back in the days when we all skipped merrily in groups of ten or more while coughing openly into each other's face and shamelessly neglecting to wash and sanitize our hands. Germs, you say? Phooey! I grew up in Hazleton. My lungs have been working out on cigarette smoke and coal dust. What my immune system doesn't kill, my Italian sarcasm will.
For a fleeting second, I think that I should throw this pudding away, but it passes quickly. The flap on the box says "best when used by: 20 Aug 2012". At least that's what I think it says. It's hard to make out through all of this dust. Hmmm... how would I have advised someone who called me at my old consumer services call center job back in 2012? Let's see if I can remember the script: "We don't recommend using a product after it's best by date because it may not meet our quality standards. Products within the best by date have the best quality, freshness and performance." Then again, that script came from the same knowledge base which said that we won't put the words "gluten free" on our Slow Churned, 1/2 the fat, 1/3 the calories, all-natural ingredient Classic Vanilla Light Ice Cream because we consider it to be "over-labeling". Besides, I was raised in a house where we didn't waste food. Best by 2012, you say? Well, I was best by 2008 and I'm still here. Bring on the delicious blend of chocolate, caramel and pecan flavors! I need the cupboard space for this pallet of Teriyaki Spam!
Yum! The pudding was delicious, just as I expected. It's a good thing too, because there are three more boxes just like it, along with a few Pumpkin Spice and Candy Cane flavors of the same vintage. I wonder if there's a community of Candy Cane Jell-o Pudding junkies out there spamming the Kraft social media sites to ask for it to come back. Maybe I can put this stuff on eBay and get rich. Slide over, Jeff Bezos. Here comes Will, the expired pudding slangin' gazillionaire, about to do a Scrooge McDuck swan dive in my Paypal money bin. See that Ferrari in the driveway? Bought that sucker on six year old Amaretto Coffee-mate. The Maserati? That's from Ecto Cooler juice boxes that were jammed in my freezer right behind the leftover turkey from Thanksgiving 2016. Wait a minute... there's already 800 sellers offering it for a Buy-It-Now price of five bucks? Damn! I guess I still have to work on Monday, but at least I have all this sweet, sweet pudding from a decade ago. Pass me the spoon.