I guess I noticed about three weeks ago. Maybe it's been going on longer, and I just didn't put the pieces together. Maybe I didn't want to believe it. You can hold on to something that has ended, even though you know it's over, simply because you can't imagine a world without it.
You ask yourself, I knew we were in a crisis, but when did it get this bad? When did warning signs stop being only signs and become the reality?
Even now I can hardly bear to write this, but I'm sure of it now.
Costco has stopped giving out free samples.
Or very nearly. When I go to Costco midweek now, no matter what time of day it is, the sample crew have vanished. No one offers the Ritz crackers with the sundried tomatoes or the chicken enchiladas. Gone are the puzzle-pieces of pizza, the popcorn chicken, the warm artichoke dip. Forget the tiny frozen cream puffs. They're history.
Is this what the global food crisis means to the average American?
If so, it's bad news indeed. We used to love eating our way through Costco. Especially at noon, or around four o'clock in the afternoon when everyone's feeling a bit peckish. "Hm, stomach's growling. And oh yeah, we need fifty rolls of toilet paper." Talk about convenient, one-stop shopping.
Oh sure, turn up on a Saturday and there's some vendor hawking his wares. A smattering of scowling, older people in hairnets (and clearly just thrilled abou tit) are still stationed here and there around the wearhouse, setting out little paper cups full of dry cereal or omega-3 supplements. The tradition lives, barely.
But Costco is nowhere near the free sample paradise it used to be. And DIH mourns.