When Australia ran out of toilet paper, I panicked. If you live with someone who has cystic fibrosis you know the importance of toilet paper. * You need a lot of it. And if an entire continent could run out of it, well, I was worried. Toilet paper became the hot topic of conversation with the voice in my head, pretty much twenty-four seven. I even dreamed about toilet paper.
The obsessiveness was weird. I admit it. I should have been more concerned with Emlen’s medication and our supply of hand sanitizer, gloves and masks; items I would need to keep him safe from the impending coronavirus. However, all the meds had been ordered. And we had gallons of hand sanitizer scattered around the house. If we ran out soap works just as well, if not better. Also, we always have a huge supply of gloves and masks, leftovers from past hospitalizations and rounds of home IV antibiotics. I had control over those items. I did not have control over toilet paper.
I usually purchase our toilet paper from Costco and squirrel it away in our bathroom cabinets. I do not buy it often. But, given the Australian situation, I figured it would not hurt to bring home another case from my bi-weekly Costco trip. When I finally managed to get there, I had, apparently, just missed THE RUN on ALL paper products. The back half of the warehouse was empty. I bought meat instead. On the way home I stopped at Staples. They still had toilet paper. I bought all of it.
That night I announced that we were ready for COVID-19. We would not suffer from a toilet paper shortage. Emlen and Henry teased me unmercifully. Emlen jumped on his phone and informed me that supermarkets and stores like Target were still stocked. “Ok Mom,” Henry smirked with a huge eye-roll, “You know this is a little over the top. What happened in Australia could not possibly happen here.”
“Maybe. But I told you the American people would never elect Donald Trump as President and they did. So, who really knows,” I shot back.
Then toilet paper vanished.
We worked our way through our existing stock. Every time I changed a roll, I would announce it to the world—all four of us. Fun fact: four people go through toilet paper a lot faster when they are home all-the-time and not at work, school or the pool. I became very aware of our diminishing supply. I began to worry again.
After a little hunting I discovered that Trader Joe’s has managed to maintain a steady stream of what they call “bath tissue.” It is sold as a six pack and is readily available if you are willing to wait in line for the ten-in-the-morning rush. You have to head straight to that weird aisle of pet supplies, facial and body lotions and cleaning products. You cannot be sidetracked by any new fruits, seasonal flowers or fancy bread mixes because the Seniors, who have had the store to themselves for an hour, are pretty good a gobbling up all but a few of the paper products. They seem to pee a lot.
To keep our supplies strong, I decided that I would pick up a package every time I shopped at the store.
A few weeks ago, after waiting in the number two spot in line for a solid thirty-five minutes, I grabbed my super sanitized cart from the gestapo grocer who now guards the entrance and wheeled my way around the chocolate case, through the frozen treats to find myself staring, not at the usual six rolls of plush tissue encased in plastic, but at individually paper wrapped rolls of toilet paper. They were imprinted with the name “Guest” and looked as if they had been stolen from a hotel the night before. The sign above shouted “two per customer.” Panic set in again.
I am embarrassed to say that I immediately went home and ordered a whole bunch of really expensive toilet paper from China.
Then I did a little more research and discovered that commercial toilet paper is still available. You just have to know where to look. And it is cheap. It has the bulk thing going for it. But it is not convenient for household use. Picking up a heavy nine-inch diameter roll of toilet paper and unwinding it every time you are sitting on the toilet would be such a drag, especially if you have cystic fibrosis and use the facilities more than most.
So…after some thinking, some designing, some discussion with my design-build partner Christian, a.k.a. The Art Floozy, some sawing and drilling and some painting…
I present, to all the mothers I know and love: The Toilet Paper-inator, Pandemic 2020 Edition
Happy Mother’s Day!
May you never run out of toilet paper. **
By the way, the really expensive toilet paper from China has yet to arrive.
*Read blog post “Fast Poops” (November 2017) for a refresher on cystic fibrosis GI issues.
**The Toilet Paper-inator, Pandemic 2020 Edition is designed to use the 9-inch diameter, 700 hundred feet per roll, GEN Jumbo Jr. 2 Ply Toilet Paper commercial roll. You can find refills at www.cleanitsupply.com