At first a trickle. Then a flood of people, all heading to Aisle 11 this afternoon at Lexington's Stop & Shop.
Eddie Domings, floor supervisor and Lexington High senior, closed down the ice-cream samples and other extra Saturday offerings in the minutes after Greater Boston's water emergency affecting 1 million people was declared. As Aisle 11 emptied of water, Domings sent as many co-workers as he could to the cash registers -- or to the stockroom to get every bottle and jug of water there.
"We're out back looking for as much water as we have,'' said the purple-shirted Domings, scanning the lengthening lines of carts groaning with 5-gallon jugs, gallon containers, and sacks of plastic water bottles.
The crowds came despite urgings from state officials that boiling water as little as a minute was sufficient for drinking tap water. His stockers later found 10 pallets of water and just plopped them in the aisle; the water was gone within minutes.
For Kalpana Dulipsingh, helping lug a five-gallon jug into her cart, the boil-water order couldn't have come at a worse time. Her congregation, the Church of the Redeemer, is having a lemonade benefit along the popular Minute-Man Bike Trail on Sunday to raise money for the Lexington Food Pantry.
"Maybe we'll put up a sign saying, 'Made with bottled water,''' said Dulipsingh.
Dulipsingh was about to leave when a fellow shopper asked if she wanted to get more water, just to be sure. She took two more gallons before leaving.
For Cynthia Cummings, the call to action came from a daughter, taking a break from her studies at the Cary Memorial Library. Cummings, moving slowly with a cart stuffed with 10 gallon jugs and four plastic Poland Spring packs of 32 bottles each, said her daughter went to get a cup of water at a nearby restaurant and was told not to drink it.
Cummings, in a neighborly spirit, said she was buying for two other families as well.
Shoppers -- and Stop & Shop's Domings -- said they had no idea how long the boil-water alert would last.
"All I know,'' Domings said, was that it was a moderate shopping day, with the sunny skies and high temperatures outside, ''and now, suddenly, we're swamped.''
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