It is the epidemic of the century, or so they say, and what is getting people mostly hyped about is the possibility of their life without toilet paper. It’s a phenomenon worth looking into. Shelves and shelves of toilet paper disappeared overnight like the “rapture” in a Hallmark movie. The eighth locust plague was a doddle compared to the insidious snatching of rolls on our supermarket shelves. The panic and the angst of a life sans toilet paper would have given Sigmund Freud a new purpose in life. So why the compulsion?
I can understand older Europeans in their 80’s and 90’s being concerned with food and staple shortages. They lived through the devastation of WWII Europe, where toilet paper would have been considered a luxury. I remember my own mother who went into a hoarding frenzy every time the news mentioned “war”. It could have been in South America, but the buzz word was enough to send her to the local store and buy enough toilet paper to last her through several life times. That I can possibly wrap my mind around. But the younger generation is an enigma to me. Are they so utterly unprepared for any kind of hardship that they cannot imagine or have a plan B for ass wiping sans Charmin? One can’t help being crude because it does involve that part of our body that is taboo in polite company but fair game in a supermarket.
The penchant for hoarding is not new. If a heat wave is predicted; stores run out of ice, fans, and air conditioners. If the weatherman predicts cold; then oil prices rise, we run out of heaters, snow shovels, and salt. The panic of today’s society is beyond any other that our parents or grandparents ever exhibited. They were told to suck it up. That gave them a sense of perspective of what should be considered a catastrophe. Life and death was a panic situation, not having enough paper to wipe your ass was not. But we are talking about the current “trophy” generation ; conditioned to think that they are God’s gift to mankind and anything short of complete comfort is Armageddon. They are sans grit, sans gravitas.
The virus panic has crossed ethnicity, gender, time zones, and social standing. “Doctors” opine on cable news and put their two cents in promising us that their truth is the truth. Which should make us ask; if we do not have a reasonable vaccine or a cure, doesn’t logic dictate that we really don’t know shit about it? Why speculate? Because it sells ratings. In the meantime mainstream media’s over the top call to arms has raised everyone’s blood pressure and urged some of us to become rabid and raid supermarkets out of toilet paper.
To put everything in perspective. The world population is approximately 8 billion. According to the latest WHO statistics, the current number of Corona infected individuals worldwide is 101,000; .00128% of the world population. Influenza infects approximately 1 billion individuals worldwide each year. Killing annually between 291,000 – 646,000 people worldwide. Approximately 45 million are infected by influenza each year in the US. According to the CDC approximately 56,000 die of it. Currently, the US corona cases have numbered to approximately 2,000 with 56 deaths; mostly elderly and those suffering with immune systems. The current population of the US is approximately 333 million. 56 deaths is .00000017% of the population. Catch my drift? But the frenzy trumpet sounded, and the unmitigated rush to the toilet paper aisle took off.
Cans of soup, sauces, and sundry still remain gently resting on our supermarket shelves in Germany. However, one does notice shopping carts filled to the brim with beer and wurst. After all next to “ass” comforts, to a true Bavarian, a beer and a wurst makes the prospect of quarantine more bearable. In Bavaria, the angst is less apparent. Less pronounced. Schools have closed for an extended spring break and Gast Hauser are taking a sabbatical. But other than that, the tranquil life of Bavaria is still moving along at its usual slow pace. At least for now. Frau Merkel did crease her Arian brown in constrained Corona concern, but not to the extent that we have seen in other parts of the world. Germany has a population of approximately 81 million. Up to date: 3,795 cases have been identified and 26 deaths reported. More than 26 Germans have died on the autobahn this year. Perspective?
I will not predict what unprecedented angst will suddenly arise tomorrow. Toilet paper at a neighborhood Lidl left the building as quickly as Elvis left a Vegas stage. A young German couple were lately interviewed on a local television station at an attempt to explain the toilet paper corona caper. They divulged that their next door neighbors made three separate trips to the supermarket to buy the much coveted toilet paper. They each bought three large packets of 24 rolls. By the time the young interviewed couple decided to get their quota of toilet paper; the local store had none . When the reporter asked what they intended to do, they stoically, quietly, and without missing a beat replied; “go next door”.
According to Mary Alvord, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at George Washington University School of Medicine; toilet paper represents an almost “infantile” primal desire to be clean. It’s inherent. It is a product that we associate with cleanliness, good living, and beautiful people. It’s a desperate urge to remain unsoiled. It’s a psychological drive that compels us to keep our asses clean. A behavior attributed to our upbringing and social expectations. Just for the hell of it I Googled “hoarding toilet paper” and a long list of possibilities dropped down like manna. From Time to the media guru The Washington Post; psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and all genre of “experts” opined on a myriad of mental possibilities and conditions that compel us to go out in droves and clean supermarkets of ass wipes. I’m sure some Ivy League university has a “study” on “toilet paper compulsion in the world today.”
Bavaria’s roads are reasonably quiet, the weather is getting warmer, and spring is around the corner. As I contemplate what other panic-button restrictions I might have to endure in the next few days, I quickly jump out of my chair on a mission of great import. I must check on my staple storage room in the basement. I open the door, turn on quickly the light, and a sigh of utmost relief escapes my puckered lips. Toilet Paper is safely tucked on the top shelf. What a wonderful feeling of contentment. The world is as it should be.