Toilet Paper Hoarding – A National Pandemic

Several months ago, I read David Quammen’s book Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. So, I wasn’t exactly taken by surprise when Covid-19 began making its way around the globe. What did surprise me was that toilet paper suddenly became an American obsession. Had one of the symptoms of the virus been loose bowels, it would have made some sense, but it’s a respiratory infection and, ironically, there’s been no run on facial tissue. Americans appear to have a fixation on cleanly-wiped back sides.

My concession to the panic has been to plan my grocery shopping so that I need shop only once a week, rather than three times. We eat a ton of fresh vegetables and fruits, so this is a bigger sacrifice than one might think. I usually make a trip to Costco only when I need gas which is about every three weeks. Today was the day.

My sister agreed to join me even though she didn’t need anything, and we spent our time together discussing our response to the viral threat. She said she wasn’t going to modify her routine and I pointed out that anything she brought home she brought home to her daughters and me as well. That was sobering. At any rate, our risky immersion in the Costco cauldron of humanity was averted by the fact that we couldn’t get near the place. A half mile from the parking lot, traffic was backed up in gridlock from every direction. Evidently word had gotten out that Costco had toilet paper, though they were limiting it to two packages of 24 rolls per customer.

Assuming that toilet paper production will continue into the foreseeable future, we aborted our mission and steered a course for the local paint store. Disposable neoprene gloves do seem like a reasonable response to a pandemic, so I figured that the paint store would likely have a supply even though the local CVS big box drug store was sold out. I was correct and the lonely clerk even offered me masks. In retrospect, I probably should have purchased a box.

I feel like we were living in interesting times before this pandemic and now things are getting truly fascinating. Personally, I wouldn’t look to the government to manage this for us as politicians have a conflict of interest when it comes to our well being. The best we can do is tailor our behavior to the best benefit of our family, our community and society. If contagion is inevitable, do everything in your power to forestall its spread to give our health care system time to prepare. Stay home when advised to do so. Weigh the risks of every outing; remember the slogan adopted during World War II, “Is this trip necessary?” When someone you know is stricken, take care of them at home using sensible hygiene and isolation practices. Don’t panic. And don’t hoard toilet paper. We’re all in this together and we ALL need clean bottoms.

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