Thursday, April 9, 2020

Toilet Paper

            This week we finally were able to buy toilet paper. As I write this, twelve rolls are sitting in the garage waiting for the viruses (viri?) to die (or whatever they do when they become harmless) before we bring them into the house. Toilet paper would not be my preferred death-delivery medium.

            And then we received twelve more rolls, a gift from Scott and Shariee, which are cooling on the front porch in a box with sanitizer, wipes, lotion, etc. We are saved.

            Butt why is toilet paper such a big deal during the pandemic? Was it being hoarded during the 1918 influenza pandemic? Come to think of it, what did they use for toilet paper in 1918? Butt I digress.

            And what are people doing with all that hoarded toilet paper? Imagine twenty years from now: Grandma dies, and the kids, going through her house, discover 800 rolls of toilet paper in the attic.

            The Great Lakes Tissue company is located in Cheboygan, right here in Northern Michigan, so you would think the supply would be plentiful up here, butt no. The owner of our local market told me that the factory is selling direct to customers, and the lines there are long, so our market can’t get butt a small percentage of its orders.

            What are the alternatives? A month ago I was looking up environmentally friendly options to toothpaste, and on the website I saw a suggestion that leaves from the mullein plant work quite well. (Believe me, this was well before the current pandemic run on t-p). Butt mullein leaves create a disposal problem, as flushing them down the toilet would not be good for the septic system, and I can’t see even short-term collection in a wastebasket. Ugh! And you also have to be careful with your plant identification. I remember all too well a hike in the woods I took when I was about nine years old. I had to make an emergency stop to do my business, wiping myself thoroughly with some convenient leaves. I itch to recall the consequences.

            I came up with another t-p alternative while driving to Traverse City for some don’t-leave-the-car errands. I would stop at a Starbucks or McDonald’s bathroom and use their toilet paper! Butt they are closed, of course, and what I had in mind is difficult to execute at the drive-thru window. Gas station men’s room? Nope – dangerous for health under the best of circumstances. As the song says, “You gotta know when to hold it.”

            A psychiatrist explained why we are seeing such a run on toilet paper. It was, he said, a matter of comfort. You might be looking at extreme financial discomfort when you lose your job or your retirement savings, and learning of friends and family getting the disease, or getting it yourself itself, is more than uncomfortable. Butt damn it, nobody is going to stop me from comfortably wiping my ass with a soft piece of paper! With Starbucks closed, it’s one of the few luxuries available.

            Speaking of luxuries, I recall a story I heard about 40 years ago. (I’m probably getting some details wrong, butt I’m not the President, so I have no obligation to tell the truth or stick to the facts.) My nephew, Rob, was in Australia on a two-week survival experience in the Outback. Participants were allowed to bring one “personal luxury item.” The first night the group was sitting around the fire, and each was asked about his or her luxury item. Rob said he brought toilet paper, and the leader asked if he could see it. Rob tossed it to him, and he tossed it into the fire. I suspect Rob was being taught some lesson, butt I’m not sure that he learned the lesson being taught. Similarly, I’m not sure what we are supposed to be learning from the current toilet paper crisis.

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