WHEN THE WORLD WAS FORCED TO A STOP
by P. T. L. Perrin
…it immediately created a toilet paper shortage. No restrictions had yet been put into place the day I went shopping at Walmart. As always, the items I needed were available. I loaded my cart and headed for the paper aisle. Wait! What the heck happened? A single pack of toilet paper sat on the otherwise empty shelves, left there, most likely, because of a tear in the packaging. I grabbed it. The paper wouldn’t spoil because the package was ripped.
Two women, one elderly and one a younger version of her, stopped in shock, just like I did. I couldn’t help myself. Tears filled the older woman’s eyes, and I had to do something. I handed her daughter the pack, fully expecting to find one somewhere else. Besides, we were okay for a while. How could Walmart, of all places, be out of TOILET PAPER? And why THAT item and no others?
In the coming weeks, when nary a roll was to be found anywhere, I fantasized about the hoarders having to eat it. Roasted TP. Grilled TP. TP Soup. TP pie. I hoped they choked; until I realized that some of them might be families with kids, and they’d be up the creek without a paddle if they hadn’t bought it all up that first week. I began to wish them well and decided to order some online. The next available delivery date was sometime in June, in two months, but it wasn’t guaranteed. A friend suggested I search Amazon for a bidet.
Having lived in Italy in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, I was familiar with bidets, simple low basins separate from the toilet with shower nozzles that sprayed upward. Back then, they were a place to float toy boats, complete with a fountain in the middle. I did not know their true purpose until I was much older and no longer living there. We had plenty of toilet paper back then.
The bidets I found online ranged from a hand-held sprayer, which can double as a cloth diaper cleaner (for those with babies who still use cloth diapers), to a seat attachment that requires no aiming. It appears that the sprayer might take some practice in order to avoid a wet bathroom. But then, if you turn on the no-aiming-required spray without your rear end covering the inside opening of the toilet seat, you could give your ceiling a wash. At least you could with the Italian ones. Amazingly, the guaranteed delivery date was in three days. I clicked the button, quite satisfied with myself.
Neighbors drive to a local farm, where a box of fresh veggies is placed in their trunk, and they drop some off at our front porch. Other neighbors are busy sewing facemasks for a local nursing home. I gave them some colorful fabric and a treasure trove of elastic left over from my long-ago sewing days. Kids ride their bikes in the quiet streets, six feet apart from each other most of the time. Couples walk holding hands (come on…they live together!) and greet other walkers, keeping their distance and using their ‘outside’ voices. Everyone asks everyone else, “How are you doing? Need anything?”
The air smells fresher, the office is gradually getting cleaned out, and my tennis-pro husband burns off energy doing yard work and cutting the hedge shorter and shorter. By the time this is over, it’ll be six inches tall. We’re finally using up the canned goods in the pantry, at least those whose expiration dates are newer than July 2015.
The worst part of this for most people is the loss of jobs and income, although we’re all hoping it’s temporary. We hope to scrounge enough to pay the mortgage for the next couple months, until the tennis courts open and people take lessons again. Younger people with families at home are worried, including our children with their families. Some can work from home, others cannot.
The systems that should facilitate what the government has done to ease the burden are broken and scrambling to find fixes. When this happens again, hopefully in the far distant future, they should be prepared, and the process should run smoother. The same goes for medical supplies and personal protection equipment. There were no stockpiles when this virus shut us down. After this, there will be.
We pray for the sick, that they will recover, and for those who’ve lost loved ones. We pray for those who are feeling the pain of lost income, especially those with young children. We pray for the teachers who have poured themselves into making lessons their students can do from home, and we pray for the parents of those students. We pray for the homeless and the prisoners who have little choice in anything. We pray for Bill’s mom in a nursing home, and for all those who live and work there. We pray for doctors, nurses, hospital staff, first responders…everyone helping others though this.
We were both sick in January, and so were some of our kids and grandkids. Could it have been this virus, this invisible scourge, that made us miserable for a while and then left us to recover? Perhaps. Perhaps many people have had it unknowingly and are now immune, with antibodies that can help someone who is seriously ill to recover. In time, we may all be tested, and then we’ll know for sure.
For now, we practice social distancing. We stay home and catch up on things we’d been meaning to do for the last twenty years, and thank the good Lord we have a home to shelter in. We follow the rules, not to protect ourselves, but to protect the people around us, known and not known, just in case. We are witnessing the spirit of the people who live here, who, when faced with calamity, reach out and help their neighbors. We have never been prouder to be Americans than we are right now.
The bidet arrived right on time. It looks nice in its box, which will remain closed until we run out of toilet paper, an unlikely issue with our kids and neighbors watching out for us. Neighbors, if you run out, we have some to share. I want to try that bidet.
Now about those toilet paper hoarders…
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