Sometimes, you just can’t escape addressing the toughest and most pressing of issues. You know the kinds of things I’m talking about — issues that everyone is talking about or items that affect all of us in our everyday lives.
In that vein, I embarked for answers to one of the pesky and most asked questions in America today. While other items have made remarkable comebacks after initial runs on grocery stores, the toilet paper aisle at my local market remains as bare as the territory it’s designed to serve.
I’m not the only one making this awkward inquiry. I found numerous message boards and posts that displayed a dismayed public growing more impatient with each passing day and reflecting a king-sized lament over the lack of toilet tissue.
Now, it’s easy to understand how toilet paper and other items quickly disappeared from the shelves as Americans were faced with an unknown period of quarantine and uncertainty linked to dwindling household supplies and food.
The initial action by Governor Northam produced a run on the supermarkets not unlike the crowds generated by the hint of impending snow or hurricanes. Unlike those territorial disasters, this one involved a nationwide barrage on supplies, with hand sanitizer and toilet paper taking the biggest hit.
After weeks, I would have assumed most people have enough toilet paper to last for the most severe of quarantines, assuming the mediation we are enduring did not include laxatives. To my dismay, the aisles are still empty and only the most savvy of shoppers know when to hit the store at the most opportune time to find the product.
I couldn’t get any answers as to when the shortage might end, and even the companies that produce what we once considered a necessity aren’t sure when the shelves will be full again.
But, those officials did supply reasonable accounts of how we got in this mess. It seems toilet paper production is pretty predictable and companies rely on historical data to gauge just how many sheets to produce.
Ramping up that production is more difficult than it sounds with factories staffed and tooled to produce a normal supply. In addition, the virus has affected work schedules at those factories. By mid-April, most big producers have increased quotas — but when it will reach your spindle is still unclear.
Before we go any further, let me make it clear we have toilet paper at my house. Mysteriously, I find myself searching for it even though we have at least a month’s supply. To my surprise, I discovered I might be part of the problem.
After a couple of frustrating days of searching for answers, I somewhat jokingly asked the store manager if he knew when people might be able to start using the bathroom again. He moved to the edge of the counter, and spoke in an almost whispered tone as he explained how toilet paper aisles remain empty day after day.
He informed me that when rolls come in and are placed on the shelves, they immediately sell out. It seems people who don’t actually need any more toilet paper can’t resist just the sight of the available product and scoop it up.
Who would have thought the thoughtlessness of some consumers would lead to shortages for others leading to unspeakable inconveniences?
With the information he provided, I ventured to ask one more question. I feared it was a bridge too far, and it was.
In response to my question regarding when was the best time to arrive at the store to get toilet paper, he moved away and told me he didn’t know. On further investigation, I discovered that grocery stores are hesitant to publish restocking schedules fearing a run on their stores that would violate current restrictions and make social distancing impossible.
The whole experience left me more appreciative of the pile of toilet paper sitting in our bathroom closet, but still somehow unfulfilled in my search.
But, I’ve also learned my quarantine-inspired lesson, and I will end my search for the elusive item. I’ll try to live in the reality that if I don’t need it I won’t buy it.
Besides, I’ve set my sights on loftier goals. We’re running low on hand sanitizer.