“In the year 2525, if man is still alive—if woman can survive, they may find…” NO TOILET PAPER!
I’m almost certain the song writer Richard Lee Evans wasn’t thinking about toilet paper when he wrote the first two lines of his apocalyptic song in 1964, but toilet paper sure is on my mind in these pandemic days of the coronavirus. I’m convinced that the wipe-out of toilet paper is a sign…a sign that America is one sheet of TP away from a total moral meltdown.
And I even have some butt in the game. I’ve got Celiac disease with an occasional side service of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and toilet paper is my best bud.
So for me, this coronavirus hoarding shit just got real.
It isn’t just that TP has taken the place of gold, but it is the losing of our minds over the anticipated lack of it. I don’t know, maybe the entire country has IBS which makes sense given the President we have—just sayin’. If that is the case, I suppose the hoarding could be forgiven. But somehow, I don’t think so… I just heard that people got into fights at my local Costco over the last couple of packs of TP. In the area where one of my friends lives, people were seen assessing whether they could outrun their fellow shoppers, then they snatched said toilet paper out of other people’s carts and made a mad dash for the checkout counter.
To make matters worse, fighting over toilet paper is not the only sign that we Americans are not going to weather this end-time scenario very well. (Remember: This is just the beginning—we could be in this “sans toilet paper world” for months, maybe years. BTW people: Can we all spell BIDET?)
The other day, I went to the grocery store. Since I’m old, I decided to arrive as soon as the store opened to avoid the crowds. When I pulled into the parking lot and couldn’t find a parking space, I knew I would be in for a bumpy ride. This grocery store is rather high end and expensive. I chose to shop there because it is small and I knew I’d encounter fewer people—thus less issue with potential contamination as I am one of those in the high risk category (over 60 with a compromised immune system). But when I pulled up to the store, there were hordes of very old White people banging on the glass doors to be let in (not one minority in the midst of the maddening crowd). (Did I mention that I live in a town where people go to die after having made a lot of money in their careers? Consequently, we have scores of very old, conservative, White, educated, rich people who predominantly voted for Trump because they thought he increased their stock portfolios and/or they are Evangelical Christians.) Anyway, the people who were banging on the store windows all rushed inside when the doors were unlocked and made a beeline to the meat counter at the back of the store. (Who knew 70 and 80 year olds could move that fast while pushing a grocery cart?) By the time I got my service ticket, I was number 30. There were no whole chickens, no chicken thighs or drumsticks, there were ten chicken wings, very little hamburger, a few cartoons of eggs from some free range farm that cost a king’s ransom and no carrots.
“You know this is the only grocery store in town that has any meat left,” said the old lady with the nervous twitch who almost knocked over the bread cart as she tried to keep 6 feet of space between us. “That can’t be possible,” I gasped. “We have four grocery stores within a two-mile radius!”
By the time I got to the butcher counter, the only meat and fish left were the cuts the Queen of England would serve for a fancy state dinner party. “Is this all the meat you have today? Isn’t there any chicken?” I asked the butcher. “Yep and nope,” he said, with a look of, “take it or leave it, lady—I been here since 6 a.m. butchering meat. It’s not my fault that your greedy neighbors snatched up what little we had as if these rich old people would never eat again. I got no whole chickens, no chicken thighs, no chicken legs, and the last of the chicken wings just got sold while answering your stupid questions.”
As I quickly pointed to cuts of meat I’d either never cooked before (rack of lamb) or that cost me an arm and a leg (Prime Steaks) to purchase, I heard someone in the depleted egg section “Pssst!” me over his way. The summons had come from a young African-American man who I’d never seen before. There are not many of my peeps who shop in that store, so if you see one and you don’t know them, they either work there or they are tourists. He was a new stock employee replenishing $5.00 a cup “Goat’s milk” yogurt made by Tibeto-Burman people from the eastern and central Himalayas. (All the Dannon, Chobani, and Stoneyfield yogurt had long gone the way of the chicken wings.)
The young man invaded my social distancing space to angrily complain about the racism in my town. “Do you see that White woman over there?” said my new coronavirus friend. “She coughed—COUGHED!—right in my face, didn’t apologize, didn’t even acknowledge me—just went on her merry way. I’ve only been working here a week and I’ve never seen racism like this. It’s the most racist town I’ve ever lived in!”
Oh good grief, I thought. All I wanted was some hamburger meat and a roast chicken. Now I’m going to be involved in a race war. “Listen, my millennial baby,” I said. “I’ve lived here for a while. Most of the people in the town are very lovely. Do we have racists? Yes, we do. But for every racist we have, there are ten more people who are not of that ilk. If I were to take a guess, that woman is probably not a racist in the classic sense, she probably is just a self-absorbed bitch. I would wager that we have more bitches than we do racists in this town. Now go spray yourself down with some Lysol and think happy thoughts, for Christ’s sake, because things are going to get a hell of a lot crazier than this in the months to come.”
All I could think of as I drove away (besides how I needed to call my friend Marilyn ASAP to ask her how to cook a rack of lamb) was that America may not survive COVID-19, not because of its deadly virus components, not because we don’t have the resources or the scientists to discover a cure, but because it hasn’t taken much to scratch the surface of our self-centeredness (“toilet paper for me and mine, I don’t give a shit about you and yours”), fears, suspicions, xenophobia, and meanness. I heard a few days ago that gun sales were going through the roof. Ammunition sales were unprecedented. Looks like we’ll probably kill each other with guns long before the coronavirus does.
If I run into my new millennial grocery store friend again, I will share with him a secret that I learned from Viktor Frankl’s writing (survivor of four Nazi concentration camps); if the young man embraces this truth he will be able to live anywhere through anything with anyone at any time:
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”
In the meantime, for all my fellow citizens who are refusing to isolate themselves and are engaging in careless behavior (Spring Break millennials and some mega churches) thus disregarding the health of their fellow citizens, a pox on you and all your houses!
Eleanor Tomczyk is an author and a humorist who is an award-winning voice-over performer. In 2011, she created the blog, “How the Hell Did I End Up Here” which features mostly satirical posts that have thousands of readers around the world—although she was recently banned in Pakistan (for real!). Tomczyk’s three books were featured in a recent book festival: “Monsters’ Throwdown,” “Fleeing Oz,” and “The Fetus Chronicles—Podcasts to my Miseducated Self.” Currently in her 70s and living life like it is freakin’ golden, she is a consummate storyteller and much sought-after motivational speaker. If you don’t believe me, just ask her!
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.