After reading about today’s toilet paper panic across Australia, it honestly feels that – in 2020, just three months in – we’ve collectively lost our minds.
Supermarket shelves nation wide are devoid of essential items. I was at Coles at lunch – buying some mental health chocolate for others – and observed that not only was toilet paper gone, but a range of household essentials:
- Milk was in short supply
- UHT milk was out everywhere
- Toilet paper was gone, replaced with single-sheet tissues (i.e. what you blow your nose with)
- Supermarket-safe medicines were all gone – vitamins, herbs and panadol/ibuprofen all gone
- Tins of vegetables, fruit, etc were all gone
- Pasta and rice were in short, short supply with only giant sacks left
Just what the hell is going on? Does coronavirus cause sudden bouts of diarrhea that is hitherto unknown to science? It doesn’t seem so.
This wasn’t the case just at our local Coles, either. Supermarkets literally across the nation are experiencing the same thing. Police have been called in at certain supermarkets to break up actual bloody fights between shoppers trying to get the last of the bog roll.
I remarked to a colleague this morning that this reaction feels like how the world might react to a virus that causes reanimation of the zombie variety.. would we see everyone panic buying certain items (toilet paper, milk, panadol) before society collapses and we’re fending for ourselves with baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire?
The effects are being felt far and wide. International travel is becoming harder to justify, and in the case of some countries, hard to actually do. Consumer demand is slumping – people aren’t buying new phones for example, presumably because they’re out stocking up on toilet paper instead. Businesses are cancelling events, conferences and the like for fears that their staff or attendees might get sick.
Facebook cancelled its developer event. Google cancelled its too. Microsoft has done the same. GSMA cancelled the world’s biggest mobile conference. It’s going to keep happening for months, too.
Hell, our national government was talking overnight about laws on the books which allow health officials to forceably quarantine people, restrict them to their homes, cancel sporting events and large gatherings and more. I kid you not, we were being told that it’s possible we could dob in our neighbours if they’re showing signs of coronavirus (as if the layperson actually knows what those signs are) and are going about spreading their germs with gay abandon.
What does this mean for you and I, the average sensible person who’s not out stockpiling like crazy at this stage? Are we on the brink of societal collapse? I’d suggest we’re a long way from that – previous, more virulent forms of coronavirus which killed many, many more people didn’t cause this level of collective insanity – and after a couple of days, everyone will realise they’re perfectly safe, and have a lot of toilet paper to last the next few years, and baked beans to eat. Hopefully we’ll be sitting back having a quiet chuckle.
If society really is on the brink – or if everyone had to spend two weeks at home with no public activity at all – there’s things I’d want that are far more important than toilet paper:
- Panadol, Ibuprofen, and general household drugs – those are good things to have
- Following on from the above – soap, alcohol handwash, etc – sanitary practice is important
- First aid gear – band-aids, bandages, antiseptics, antibiotics, saline, etc
- Essential items for the females in the house – girls, you know what I mean
- Food – stored water, tinned foods, rice and pasta, UHT milk, cereals etc with long shelf life – these make sense
- A heat source – can’t do much without electricity or some other heat source to cook your rice/pasta/tinned stuff
- Batteries, portable power, generator, etc – if the power grid fails, you’re going to want these conveniences until they become unworkable
- A radio – if everything else goes to pot, emergency radio broadcasts will probably go last
- Appropriate clothing – summer’s over, we’re headed into winter, and it’s going to get cold(er) and wet(ter)
- Effective security to stop other people stealing my stuff, above, if society really does fall apart
Even though I’d need all the above, toilet paper really is a want not a need – many cultures wipe their butts without paper.
Try surviving the apocalypse without food, water, basic medicine, food and clothing.