I just counted our toilet paper rolls.
I never have done that. I always assumed I could hop on out to the store and purchase more.
Or get on Amazon and the delivery gods would bring me whatever I wanted.
Out of curiosity, I went to Big Lots, and Target, and Trader Joes tonight.
All fresh out of toilet paper.
I stared at rows and rows of Bounty paper towels and heard a man come up behind me, swearing under his breath.
“I don’t want to STOCK UP” he said to me. “I just need the stuff.”
And when I typed “T” into Amazon, TP was the first to come up.
All normal brands are out of stock.
You can buy generic, or perhaps this novelty roll that has cartoons having sex on the sheets. Entertainment for while you wipe. Or maybe unicorns are more your style.
Why does toilet paper make us feel safe right now?
This month, I spent seven days in Cuba and during my time there, I got a tiny glimpse of what it feels like to not have everything at my finger tips. I paid to use the bathroom, and crumpled up flimsy squares of recycled paper used when nature calls. I tucked wads in my backpack and was annoyed when public facilities lacked what I considered to be the basics.
And today, under threat of public health concerns, my fellow Americans are stockpiling the rolls. I sit in my well lit kitchen and scroll on an expensive computer about the novelty choices left in stock. Apparently pictures of presidents and rolls of printed dollar bills are still available.
I could also spend over $100 to buy over 50 rolls that could last my small family of two for months.
I fell prey to the fear and I wandered the aisles at the grocery store. I picked frozen veggies left in the cold, white, wire bins. Broccoli seems to be a coveted item and cauliflower was gone. No one wants to eat frozen asparagus.
As if a full freezer will protect me from the unseen virus lurking on airplanes and sneezes and hellos from strangers. I wish I could tell you I wasn’t a little scared.
I am. I counted my toilet paper.
As of right now, I have seven rolls.
Before I left to travel abroad, I received lots of comments about the risks I was taking getting on a plane and going to another country.
I wrote in my journal, I cried, and I created anxiety coping plans with people who loved me.
I chose to get on the plane anyway.
I was met with a richness found in kindness. Open doors and flowing cocktails. Dark coffee, syrupy in strength, served in tiny cups. I wandered dirty streets and got seconds on strawberry soft serve, and looked up to the lights people strung across worn alleys and dark doorways. These people didn’t have toilet paper and they were doing the best they can with what they’ve got.
Their stories, their art work, their hospitality were all immensely beautiful.
I’ll be processing for awhile.
Upon my return in a grand 747 flying metal bird , I saw mansions from the air, scrubbed my hands in airport bathrooms and sank into the abundance the USA has in our aisles and our homes and the stores on the streets.
I kept thinking of the woman farmer we met who is teaching people how to cook and prepare vegetables. Her father’s dream was access to Home Depot.
With the threat of quarantine, fear of germs, and pending isolation, I hope we can learn from the millions of others who live life without toilet paper and so much more every single freaking day.
It’s not about wiping our tushies or stocking our fridges or making our own hand sanitizer.
Can we open our hearts, sit down for a bit, remember to breathe, and still take care of one another?
I’m not the only one worried.
Of course, use common sense, access medical care, and seek expertise if you need it.
For those of us wondering and stocking up, what if it could be different?
What if, instead of isolating ourselves, we tuned in to the strength in shared experience and sent a text or note to those we loved. What if we picked up the phone? What if we donated to causes bigger than ourselves in our worry and panic?
What if you donated just $5 you would have allocated for toilet paper?
Wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing?