Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

When buying a coffee maker is about more than buying a coffee maker March 7, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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I wanted a coffee maker just like this. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2017.


MY COFFEE POT SPRANG a leak. A few days ago I filled the pot for my usual morning cup only to have water gush onto the counter. It took me a moment to determine what was happening before I moved the pot to the sink, then wiped up the mess flooding the countertop and the floor. Only then did I notice the small hole in the bottom of the glass carafe.

No morning cup of joe for me.

Later I went to a local big box store to buy a replacement. Except no replacement was to be found in the size and name brand I desired. So it was either go without coffee for another day or buy the off-brand for $10 with a one-year warranty. That worked.

Now why do I tell you this story? Because it relates to the Coronavirus. Sorry, the COVID-19 tag doesn’t stick with me.

I’d heard stories about stores selling out of antibacterial sanitizers, soap, cleaners, over-the-counter meds… But those reports came from the Twin Cities metro and I doubted that applied to Faribault, an hour from downtown Minneapolis. But it appears people here are stocking up, too, although not me. Not yet.

In the soap aisle, I found shelves nearly cleared of liquid antibacterial soaps. I buy the mega size of liquid soap (not antibacterial) and then pour the soap into a dispenser. Randy commented on that choice, wondering whether I was stocking up because of the Coronavirus. Nope, I always buy the larger size to save money. How could he not notice?

Anyway, then it was on to the coffee maker aisle, where I’d already requested Randy to scout the choices. I didn’t expect a shortage. As we stood there moving boxes, looking for the size and brand I desired, we joked about people buying out the smaller coffee pots due to the Coronavirus.

Now don’t get me wrong, I consider this current outbreak serious. I first became personally concerned several weeks ago when an infected person was treated at a Madison, Wisconsin, emergency room. My second daughter works as an independent healthcare-related contractor in that hospital and learned about the case from her sister in Minnesota who read about it in the media. That didn’t give me much confidence in the system. But Wisconsin has reported no additional cases. So that’s good.

Anyway, back to those coffee makers. When I texted the Minnesota daughter about the shortage, she texted back, “People need their coffee if they will be quarantined.” Yes, they do.

Sometimes you just have to find a humorous angle in a situation or worry can overtake you.

While paying for the coffee maker, soap and other purchases, I asked the big box clerk if customers are clearing shelves of deemed preparatory essentials related to the Coronavirus. She answered in the affirmative.

As we wheeled our cart out the store, past a pallet of antibacterial spray, I wondered whether we should be stockpiling anything. How about you? Are you stocking up due to the Coronavirus? If yes, what are you buying?

At least I now have a working coffee maker. And coffee. That’s something.


FOLLOW-UP added at 5 pm Friday: Within hours of finishing this post on Friday, I learned of the first “presumptive case” of Coronavirus in Minnesota via media reports. An “older adult” in Ramsey County tested positive for the virus, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. At the time of the announcement, the word “presumptive” was used because the Centers for Disease Control had yet to officially confirm the positive test.

The infected individual is now isolated at home in Ramsey County while health officials investigate and attempt to determine who may have been exposed. The individual was on a cruise ship with a known Coronavirus case. State Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm stated in a press conference Friday afternoon that the COVID-19 positive person in Minnesota “largely has been at home.” Symptoms reportedly developed on February 25 with the individual seeking medical attention Thursday.

The focus now is on containment and prevention, officials repeated as they reminded Minnesotans to cover their coughs, wash their hands with soap and water, and stay home if they are sick. They emphasized the need to protect those most at risk—older people and individuals with underlying health conditions. Those exposed to the infected person will be quarantined, officials said.

Our capital city of St. Paul is located in Ramsey County, thus we’re talking a heavily-populated metro area. And the daughter who joked with me about the coffee maker, well, she and her family live in Ramsey County…


© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


27 Responses to “When buying a coffee maker is about more than buying a coffee maker”

  1. Same here in The Netherlands. Soap, hand sanitizer, toilet paper darn near impossible to find the last few days. Yes, I stocked up on food! We have about a month supply stored up. Now, if this case in MN explodes then it will cut into my Spring fishing, although I might have better luck with all those guys staying at home. Hummm…
    Coffee is highly important in these situations. Always good to have an old fashioned perk kind just in case.😊

  2. Well, yes I have started stockpiling a little. As you know we live in a metropolitan city and my partner teaches college whose student body is about half international students (read: traveling students) and he has a background in Molecular Cell Biology…well, enough said. 🙂

    I don’t want to be quarantined with the whole family and I especially don’t want any of us to get sick but to be quite honest, I usually have a small emergency stash around anyway. You never know with weather or terrorism…


    On my last normal shopping trip I bought extra soap (not antibacterial), ethanol alcohol to wipe down phones, remotes and door knobs, and a few extra rolls of TP. There is a small corner in my bedroom closet where I started a nonperishable food spot not to be touched unless we run out of stuff and can’t get out.

    So…lets hope this doesn’t happen. Hand washing hadn’t been a problem, kids have been drilled to do this since infancy every time they come into the house.

    As for coffee? I must remember to buy another couple of bags next time I’m out. 🙂

  3. Littlesundog Says:

    I’m not stocking up on anything… mostly because growing up as I did we kept a pantry with backup items in case we couldn’t get to the store. Back then, you didn’t make trips to town more than every two to three weeks. Like you, we bought in bulk usually once a month. Farm people were generally prepared for anything in those days, and I continue to live that way.

    I’m not concerned about COVID-19. The media in this country is not reliable and over the last decades, I’ve decided most government entities are corrupt including the CDC. Ridiculously, this virus has even affected the stock market so I’m not surprised about a shortage of small coffeemakers! Outbreaks of disease come and go, and we don’t escape much in this life. I would be more worried about cancer than Coronavirus. Lifestyle and eating habits (fast food and processed foods) are more likely to kill us slowly. Even if I was exposed to the virus, we live a fairly healthy life here. I’m glad you found a coffeemaker! That cup of coffee is essential to get on with the day!

    • You and I share the same farming background of nearly all our food coming from our childhood farms and those once-a-month trips to town. Unlike you, I don’t continue with the growing your own food (lack of space primarily), but try to eat healthy. I admire your especially healthy lifestyle.

      As far as the media, as a former journalist, I have a different opinion. I am much more trusting, although that depends on the specific media. Our state officials, I think, did a fantastic job in providing information and answering questions at yesterday’s news conference. And when they couldn’t answer a question, they said so. They didn’t dance around the question and attempt to deflect. I appreciated that.

  4. valeriebollinger Says:

    That’s interesting…we were at Costco yesterday and going to buy toilet paper (not because of the coronavirus) and they were out. They said they sell out these days by noon or 1…people are stockpiling it.

  5. Brian Says:

    Good morning Audrey, I’m going to assume that was a light hearted poke at Randy for not realizing you were saving money by buying the large soap. Us husbands (oh boy, blanket statement) only notice things when our routine is disrupted, no soap, coffee, or unhappy wife haha.
    Ruth and I have had a few discussions concerning the Coronavirus, our faith in the Lord and reminders to wash hands as often as possible are our only preventative measures. Both our sons work in the heslthcare industries in the Twin Cities, the virus is on the top of the discussion list for them. I work in a national hardware chain, someone came from Amazon on Friday and bought out our stock of lysol disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. We have been out of masks for weeks. That leads to hoarding and panic buying by the general public.

    • Your assumption about the light-hearted poke is correct.

      What I found most profound in your comment is that someone from Amazon bought out the hardware store’s stock of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers. That is really really interesting.

  6. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Hi Audrey! I was at Target yesterday and had no trouble buying both toilet paper and coffee. 🙂 But they are running low on hand sanitizer for sure; my daughter works at the Roseville Target in their HR department and she commented back on Monday about the things that are in high demand – Clorox wipes, antibacterial soap (which I don’t use), Tylenol, etc. This was before the coronavirus case in Ramsey County, where we live, was confirmed. I’m not going to panic since everyone should be washing their hands and covering their coughs anyway, but am a little worried about panicky people stocking up out of fear rather than logic. That does mess up supply and demand! We tend to keep our cupboard full of things like pasta, rice, peanut butter, crackers, tea, coffee, and cereal anyway. There are a lot of things besides coronavirus that can interrupt our lives. Keeping a stocked pantry, if possible, is just prudent. I worry about people who can’t afford to stock up on things, who live paycheck-to-paycheck.

    • I like, and agree with, your sensible approach to the Coronavirus situation. And I appreciate the insight into product purchases at Target in Roseville. And your concern about those who live paycheck to paycheck is certainly warranted.

  7. Jillian Says:

    In Phoenix we have had 3 confirmed cases of the virus. All stores are empty of most of the essential supplies. I went to target yesterday for children’s Tylenol which I take for my migraines and they were out so I am hoping that get more in soon. I did decide to grab a large refill bottle hand soap, which they surprisingly had plenty of in hand, since I use that more than hand sanitizer. We usually shop once a month for food and supplies so we were already prepared o guess, by default.
    I think panicking over getting sick will make you sick faster over just being sensible. Oh, and thanks for the reminder… we are low on coffee 🙂

  8. Patrick L. Coleman Says:


    For the latest, and counter-intuitive, info on anti-bacterial soap from the FDA look at



  9. Gunny Says:

    Coffee!!!!! I still have problems with drip coffee makers making that “good” cup of coffee! I recall Johnny Carson (joking) about a shortage of toilet paper locally. Sure enough, next night he announced that he had made a joke! However, he admitted, there now WAS a shortage of TP.

    In any case of a perceived “emergency”, (real or otherwise) shortages are going to occur and those items considered the solution are going to climb to astronomical prices. I picked up bottles of bleach. When mixed with some water, we have a sanitizer! I do keep some alcohol around – same type of deal Often there are “work a rounds”.

  10. Not stock piling….Brice also lives in Ramsey County. I worry most about Carson, any sickness affects Type 1 diabetes…I just continue to pray for God to cover our sweet boy 🙂

  11. I can tell you in living in an area with a pretty lengthy hurricane season we usually have a stock on hand of certain items throughout the year. I have a close family member that recently went through surgery and miss our face-to-face visits, however; at my work there has been the cold and flu and do not want to carry something to them. This person has enough going on health-wise. Out shopping this weekend I did see picked over as well as empty shelves. I saw on the news this morning the one grocery store in my area starting today is setting limits on certain products, so everyone has a chance to purchase a few to have on hand. This is really no different during a tropical store where limits are set on gas and water. Take Care

    • So then this is nothing new to you. I also just heard of limits on purchases. Minnesota now has its second confirmed case of Coronaviruse, a person in their 50s in Carver County who recently traveled abroad.

      I hope your family member is doing well in his/her recovery. You are considerate and wise to keep your distance.

    • There are 2 confirmed cases in the area and both recently traveled aboard.

  12. Almost Iowa Says:

    “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” – FDR’

    I am not sure if fear is the ‘only’ thing we have to fear but it might be the most damaging thing we have to fear.

    I look at the role of the press in this, more accurately, I look at the sordid history of the press stoking the flames of fear, panic and in many cases witch-hunts, riots and pogroms.

    We have seen responsible reporting and click-bait reporting and we have seen the press try to make political hay and cover up incompetence.

    Sadly, as economics transform the mainstream press more and more into the lamestream press, we will see more and more of fear itself.

  13. We have cancelled my birthday trip to Bermuda in May because we do not want to be stuck quarantined somewhere. Our friends and neighbors are on the Grand Princess cruise ship and are most likely going to a military base in Texas for a couple weeks of quarantine if they have not already been transported by the time I write this. I am not really stockpiling anything–we have plenty of soap and water here and I do always have clorox wipes, etc. on hand. Thank goodness I have tons of coffee as well. I am choosing to not panic but be aware and hopefully that will serve me okay.

    • Your approach of not panicking and remaining aware seem the best perspective to take.

      I’m sorry about your friends and neighbors stuck on that cruise ship. That would be difficult. I know of others who have cancelled trips, both plane and cruise, because of the coronavirus.

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