I truly thought my friend was exaggerating when she said she was off to find some toilet paper. When my friend in California said the people in the grocery stores were panicking, I dismissed it as pretty typical of my home state.
But that night, I saw an article which sparked a little something inside me. Perhaps the writer’s intent was financial gain, getting kickbacks from sales, but the result incited a tiny spark of panic even in me. There was a toilet paper shortage.
My husband assured me we had “a ton” – nine extra rolls (he counted.) But I couldn’t sleep that night.
In the kitchen in the dark, I began to browse the web for toilet paper. I searched all the major stores, only to discover they were fresh out of toilet paper. My curiosity spiked, so I clicked on Amazon, but none of the said stores sold it online.
Just for grins, I decided to check eBay, where I found a four-pack roll for $50. Is there anything lower than price-gouging toilet paper in someone’s time of need?
After my late night research, I overslept until 7 o’clock the following morning, but I was at the grocery store by 7:30. The parking lot was already packed, and a lone shopping cart stood outside.
Like Old Mother Hubbard, the store’s cupboards were bare. There was nary a square of toilet paper to be found, not even the cheap stuff you find in gas station restrooms.
Canned food and pasta were slim pickings, too, I noticed, as I watched as shoppers rolling carts full of tins of vegetables and boxes of spaghetti. I purchased some dairy items and fresh produce.
The drug store was across the parking lot, so I stopped in there, where I met with the same situation.
I had one more idea. I devised a plan to sit in the car with the groceries until the other drug store opened at 9 a.m. I parked in the shade so my perishables would not spoil. Then, remembering the days of buying concert tickets at record stores, I got out and stood at the door.
A car drove up and the window went down. “Do they open at 9?” a man inside asked. I nodded. He drove off, presumably in search of greener pastures.
A drug store employee emerged from her car and told me the store did not open until 9 a.m. She unlocked the door and went inside. A moment later, she reconsidered, opened the door, and peered at me through the crack. “Is there anything in particular you were looking for?”
“Yes, toilet paper,” I answered optimistically.
“Nobody has toilet paper,” she said frankly.
I watched as the parking lot filled up. Some people came out of the drug store empty-handed. I sighed as I shared in the communal grief. Then I drove home to my nine spare rolls of toilet paper.
A resident of Buttonwoods, Erin O’Brien is a frequent contributor to these pages who, we guess, will find a way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day no matter what.