“The year was 2020, early March or thereabouts
Just coming off of winter, when we like to gad about
And the people of the nation, we just weren’t thinking straight
Which goes somewhat towards explaining, #Toiletpapergate”
That is the first verse of a poem from Australia (edited for geography and family consumption) that is circulating around the internet. It points out one of the most phenomenally inexplicable things to come out of the COVID-19 crisis. Why in heaven’s name is there a toilet paper shortage?
To begin with, the virus seems to have no particular effect on the human alimentary canal, just our breathing apparatus. So, there wouldn’t seem to be any particular need for more toilet paper than is normally used. The trees are still growing, and such paper is a vital product, so the paper mills are still producing, and the trucks delivering it are still rolling. So, what’s the crisis?
“Then in amongst the panic, someone headed down to Kohl’s
And loaded up their shopping cart, with toilet paper rolls
We’ll never know who did it, what their motive was or why
Or what brand of roll they hoarded, was it scented or two ply?”
“All we know is in that moment, when they took it from the shelf
They unleashed a chain reaction, in a nation beside itself
Now we’ve faced wars and tornados, and survived them all as one
But a toilet paper shortage? That just made us come undone.”
The words “come undone” is a mild description of what is happening. Gone nuts would be more suitable. If you think that toilet paper is that important, just ponder the fact that less than one-third of the population of the world uses it at all, for various reasons, including lack of trees to make it.
I grew up on a farm with an outhouse, and while I have no desire to go back to it, there are worse things in this world than not having toilet paper. Many a Sears catalog was disposed of in that old outhouse, and more than a few corncobs.
Obviously, some were not just hoarding; they were profiteers. If you check completed sales on eBay, you will find that people have actually paid $1 for a square (not a roll) of toilet paper. One eBay sale involved someone paying well over $5 per roll for multiple rolls. On March 26, there were more than 2,500 completed sales of toilet paper on eBay. While I didn’t do the exact math, it appears that the average price would have been pushing $3 per roll.
“As the people started hoarding, all the last remaining sheets
There were fistfights in the aisles; there was panic in the streets
While some stood on the front porch, pistol tucked in their waistband
To protect their precious hoard — they’d rather die than use their hand”
“And the arrogant bidet owners, with their derrieres unhurt
Well, they rented out their bathrooms, twenty dollars for a squirt
But the greatest single irony, throughout this fiendish trend
You get Corona is your nose and lungs, not in the other end.”
I went to the grocery the other day, and two stores had at least some toilet paper on the shelves. So hopefully, the “crisis” may be coming to an end.
Obviously, no more than normal amounts of toilet paper are being used during this crisis, but we are about to be reduced to seeing shady characters standing on street corners concealing rolls of Charmin under their coats — instead of the usual mind-altering substances — and dispensing it quickly to people in cars for exorbitant prices. All because too many people just don’t use common sense.
Don Stratton is a retired inspector for the Lima Police Department. He writes a guest column for The Lima News, often focusing on police matters.