The coronavirus pandemic has hit North America. Everything is shutting down. No one is getting bumped off flights anymore because planes are flying half filled. Sports arenas and stadiums, public schools and universities, concerts halls and venues, the Canadian Parliament, even Toronto’s CN Tower!
But you know what’s not empty? Costco, Walmart, supermarkets and pharmacies. People are lining up to buy all types of household goods from pasta to canned soups, and disinfectant wipes to bottled water. You would think the Apocalypse is about to happen and we’re all going to be fighting to survive. And the one thing that every single buyer is looking for, that item they will physically fight for, is toilet paper. Not just a couple of rolls. People are carting away a year’s worth of the stuff.
Everyone asks the same question – why toilet paper? One guy was stopped at a local supermarket with five packages. He was asked why he was buying so many rolls. He said he didn’t know but he saw on the news that everyone was lining up to buy toilet paper so he decided he should do the same. It’s mass hysteria. It’s irrational. But it makes some sense to me.
On my recent trip to South America, we were visiting a small city in the middle of the Chilean Andes. We stopped for lunch near the city’s main square where they had public toilets (baños). We lined up to use the washroom and after handing over a number of pesos, we were handed one square of toilet paper. I looked down at this single sheet of course paper and realized the importance of this common household commodity.
When major weather events and other mishaps occur, we react. When a plane crashes, some people avoid flying. In flood or hurricane regions, people know exactly what needs to be done to stay safe. It mitigates the fear factor. But the coronavirus is something unprecedented. It feels like the world is spinning out of control. If Tom Hanks can get sick then who is safe? Panic shopping makes people feel like they’re in control of something. And the one thing that provides these freaked out shoppers with security- that’s right toilet paper!
I get it. Toilet paper is the one thing that separates civilized society from savages. That and flush toilets. Just think about it, eliminate one from the equation and what are we left with? I’ll tell you what. A mess! Once we no longer have those soft tissues to indulge our tushes, no one will be talking about Wuhan, COVID-19, cruise ships and the Utah Jazz. It’ll be the end of civilization as we know it. We’ll be back to living like cave men (and women) with the exception of driving around in smelly Lexus SUVs and the occasional Starbucks “nonfat, iced skinny mocha with light ice, whipped cream, and chocolate drizzle.”
I get the toilet paper panic. Just come around and check out my basement. Sorry, I would go on but I need to run. Someone just text me that the local Loblaws store has just put out several cases of toilet paper.