Hump Day: Basic instinct: going squirrelly in the eye of a snowstorm

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015
Moncton Times & Transcript

Humans often portray themselves as quite more intelligent than other species, but sometimes I’m not so sure. For all intents and purposes, we’re just another animal.

Don’t think so? Just stand in a lion’s cage at the zoo while covered in barbecue sauce and see if the lion wants to strike up a conversation about Shakespeare or hold your head in one paw, your feet in another paw and eat you like corn on the cob.

We wouldn’t make it easy for the lion, though, I’m sure, because we’d most certainly make quite a racket with all our screaming and crying – kind of like when we eat really crunchy chips. Sure, it’s loud, but the taste is oh so delicious.

The same goes for our most basic animal instincts, one of which I seem to share with squirrels. And I think many others share this innate, unstoppable urge, too. You see, whenever I hear there’s a storm coming, I turn into a hoarding squirrel. Along with many of you, I show up at the grocery store and act like the stores will be closed for the next month. I leave with a cart filled to the brim with junk I shouldn’t eat – and which will probably just end up getting tossed when I come to my senses when the skies clear up 24 to 36 hours later.

The urge to hoard for a storm is strong among many people. And it bears noting that no one has the urge to hoard lettuce, either. We’re talking junk, here. Chips. Chocolate. Candy. People were posting photos online before our latest storm that showed the chips aisle well picked over at the grocery store. I’d also been to the grocery store (just in case we were stuck inside for a week, of course) and I stayed away from the chips aisle on purpose, but I can confirm that the vegetables section remained well stocked. No one pigs out on carrot sticks on a storm day.

‘Honey, let’s stock up on parsley, lemons and water. We should start a cleanse! I feel like eating a big salad during the storm. Let’s buy some cucumbers!’ Not.

groceries manActually, it’s more like we search frantically up and down the aisles for stuff that’s bad for us. ‘Get the candy! Find the chocolate! Fill the carts up with chips, kids! It’s Snowmageddon 2015! We need to fatten you all up so you survive for the next 24 hours in a nicely heated house while protected from the elements!’

Of course, this doesn’t make any sense in the least, but instincts sometimes don’t make sense. The instinct to hoard food before a storm is something that was probably developed inside of humans when we were just tadpoles in the primordial soup. It’s something we feel in our bones. It’s an urge – and a strong one.

Of course, we can resist it and reason ourselves out of it. Thinking about it logically, we have pretty good weather forecasts and we all know approximately when a storm will start and stop. We know within a very close margin how much snow we’re supposed to get. Road crews are usually pretty good at keeping main arteries open so that at least emergency vehicles can get by. Barring the most gargantuan of storms, most of us would not be trapped in our own homes for days on end with no other option but to pull a Sophie’s Choice by flipping a coin to determine whether we eat the cat or the dog for supper.

I do indeed try to talk myself out of the illogic of hoarding. It makes no sense in our society to believe you won’t be able to leave the house for days on end – especially if you live in a well-populated area.

But, like I said, instincts are hard to ignore. That strong, invisible, internal tugging often wins out and we find ourselves at the checkout with 16 large bags of chips instead of lettuce and chicken. During my most recent storm-hoarding visit, I was quite pleased with myself that I managed to talk myself out of the ridiculous urge to fill the cart with garbage. I knew what I had at home. I knew the freezer was full and so was the refrigerator.

Hoarding junk food before a storm can be fun, though. It’s almost like having chocolates at Christmas. It’s Christmas! What’s one chocolate? Same can be said of a storm! Hey, it’s only one day! Sure, until they find you a week later passed out naked in a ditch and covered in ‍icing sugar.

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