Toilet Paper: An Existential Thought Exercise

In the bathroom this morning, I started thinking about hoarding and impulse buying of toilet paper.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, toilet paper was plentiful and bountiful. Full stacked aisles were available at Costco, Target, and even at the neighborhood corner store.

No one worried about where they would get their next roll.

Then came COVID-19.

Toilet paper went from something you didn’t think about to a the Great Toilet Paper Panic of 2020.

1/ Toilet paper was never that scarce.

The shortage came from panic buying, not from reduced production or supply. People got anxious and felt like they needed to get as much as they could while the getting was good.

The problem with this mentality is that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It wasn’t scare until the people who were worried about it being scarce, made it scarce.

You imagined scarcity and got scarcity. Surprised? You people suck.

2/ Stores began rationing how much toilet paper a customer could buy.

Because customers didn’t have self-control and general consideration for others, stores needed to step in and regulate how much toilet paper customers could buy.

Buy what you need, but leave enough for others to get their share as well.

Stores are saying: “You have enough—leave some for your fellow shoppers.”

It turns out limiting how much toilet paper any one household could accumulate is a good thing.

3/ Many people who had toilet paper shared with people who needed toilet paper.

Meme: Sponge Bob next to a big pile of toilet paper
“Hey grandma what’s up with all the toilet paper in the garage” Grandma: let me tell you about the Coronavirus of 2020.

I was heartened to see in my social media feeds and texts, messages from friends and neighbors willing to share their stashes toilet paper.

I saw instances of friends telling others which stores had it in stock and even offering to buy some and drop off.

People had toilet paper and were willing to share toilet paper with others in need.

Are you with me so far? It seems almost laughable that toilet paper would be thought of in these ways and receive so much attention.

But I want to draw your attention to a thought exercise that stirred in my brain this morning.

Take out the word “toilet paper” and swap it with “money” instead. Reread what I wrote with that in mind and be prepared to discuss.

Your homework assignment is due tomorrow.

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