A Letter To Our City Brethren

This morning I had the weirdest shopping experience of my life. We were out of cat litter (we have three cats), and we needed both cat and dog (two dogs) food. Cat and dog spam below….

Socks (Yes I know, but it wasn’t deliberate.)
Diva (small dog in big bed) and Jace (bigger dog in small bed).

So, anyway, we also needed fruit, a few veggies and some milk. Off I went to Woolies.

This is the cat litter/cat food/dog food aisle.

Litter, what litter?

I live in a rural town in NSW, Australia. All over the shops, and indeed, all over town, wherever I went, there were stories about how ‘a group came up from the city and cleaned out our local IGA/corner shop/supermarket.’ Along with ‘my daughter/son lives in X city, and can’t get baby panadol/ventolin/insert medication here, nappies/toilet paper in her local supermarket, so s/he’s asked me to keep an eye out for some.

I was told (anecdotally obviously) that some supermarkets in smaller towns are asking to see driver’s licences to confirm that the person purchasing is local. I found an article supporting this.

If you live in a city, you might think that’s an over the top response, but if you live rurally or remotely, you probably know what I’m going to say next.

My last blog post focused on being nice to each other – remembering that we live in a land of plenty, and purchasing ‘only enough.’ And being satisfied with ‘enough.’ Well, here in a rural area, ‘enough’ can be impacted very easily. Earlier this week, the freeway from Sydney was closed due to a truck accident. That meant that on that particular day, the trucks that would normally restock our supermarkets from the central distribution centres – in the city – could not get through.

We’re accustomed to not having ‘everything’ available in rural areas. Luxury items, electronics, specialist equipment, fabric, crafting stuff – they’re the kinds of things we sometimes have to go elsewhere to buy, or order online. But we are accustomed to having the basic necessities available, like milk, bread, meat and general food and sanitary items, even if they’re not always the same brand or type we’d prefer.

I understand that everyone’s on edge right now, but PLEASE, think about this. City dwellers, you, like many people, have panic bought. Now some of your neighbours are short. Some of those neighbours are driving to country areas, and feeling panicky because they couldn’t get ‘enough,’ and then panic buying in country areas, where sometimes supplies are not secure, because of distance. This has an enormous flow on effect.

Now some of those, (and possibly my) areas do not have enough. I banged into a friend while shopping today. Like many in this area, she comes from ‘out of town.’ That is, she lives on a property, and comes in only as required to shop. Those who only come in occasionally to shop usually shop for a specific period of time, to minimise the cost of driving multiple (expensive) kilometres. They rely on the shops and pharmacies to have ‘enough’ for everyone.

I heard (again anecdotally) of someone standing in a pharmacy line, watching someone purchase seven (7!) ventolin puffers. Ventolin puffers have 200 doses. Now, if your asthma is under control (ie. you use a preventer regularly and monitor your asthma), you do not need 1400 doses of ventolin to last two weeks. If you do, your asthma is out of control and you should already be in hospital. (Unless of course, you have seven asthmatic family members all living together and you’ve come in on your routine out of towner shop.)

We have also been asked to social distance and avoid gatherings of more than 100 people. Panic buying leads to large gatherings, and no social distancing. Think logically about this. Panic buying is not helpful in this regards.

Currently, most COVID 19 cases are in cities. The plan is to SLOW THE SPREAD and FLATTEN THE CURVE. (Yes, deliberately shouting here.) We know that slowing the spread is incredibly important, as illustrated by our kitty cat friends below.

If you are a city person, and galloping headlong into a rural area to panic buy, along with a pile of your contemporaries, then you may inadvertently transmit COVID-19 into a regional area which may not already have ANY cases, subsequently HASTENING the spread. Clearly, cities are not completely disease-ridden cesspits, but transmission in cities is, as a simple consequence of population density, a much higher risk. Put simply, it’s harder to social distance in a city – think public transport for example.

When you don’t really have public transport, or what you have is incredibly limited, some of the risks are mitigated almost accidentally. I don’t have to push my way through crowds on a daily basis, for example. I hop into my car, drive five minutes to the centre of town and go into my workplace.

But at the same time, rural towns don’t have the health care access that city dwellers have. ICU? That’s over 100km away – and we’re closer than many. Specialist doctors? See above. Lots of health workers? Um….

So, dear City Brethren, please, think about those of us who don’t (by choice or circumstance) live in cities. Sure, we’re accustomed to not always being able to buy what we want, but we can generally count on the necessities, and right now, if you panic your way out to us because social media told you there was plenty of stuff in a country supermarket, you are depriving locals of ‘enough.’

We often feel like the poor relations to our city cousins, with less access to health care, issues with education, transport, employment and things like drought and fires, cyclones and storms, but please don’t take away our necessities in the name of panic.

Be nice to each other. Be nice to your country cousins.

A few of the locals dropping in to our backyard.

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