Sheila Sybrant

Forget the “I Voted” stickers. No dedicated couch potatoes are going to hoist themselves from their perches on the couch for an adhesive-backed piece of paper.

If we really want to motivate citizens to vote, we’ll have to get out the big guns. Technically, what we’ll have to get out are the big rolls.

Rolls of toilet paper, that is. Yes, the most motivational prize right now — not just for voting but for virtually anything — is toilet paper.

As COVID-19 rages throughout the United States, the response of Americans has been to rush to stores to stock up on bathroom tissue. News media have been reporting on this hoarding response for a while, but it wasn’t until this past week, when I went to the bulk-item store where I have a membership to do my regular stocking up, that I saw the phenomenon for myself.

One of my regular stock-up items is toilet paper. Always before, packages containing numerous rolls have been stacked high and wide on pallets in the warehouse-type establishment. The day I went, bare space greeted me.

Signs hanging from the shelves told customers that they were limited to two “ginormous” (I added the adjective) packages per day, but those signs were moot as there wasn’t anything available to buy.

I did find some toilet paper at one of the big-box retail stores nearby, although the shelves at that store were quite depleted.

My daughter, who lives in Texas, told me that she had to go to one of those large retail home improvement stores to purchase her toilet paper. I didn’t even know that those businesses sold toilet paper. Apparently, many other people don’t know, either, which is why there was still some left for my daughter to buy.

Toilet paper has become not only a fixation but also a valuable commodity in our society.

According to a BBC article, the target of thieves in Hong Kong was hundreds of toilet paper rolls. And according to a UPI odd news article by Ben Hooper, the owner of an arcade in England put toilet paper rolls in his claw machine instead of toys.

Stocking up on toilet paper doesn’t make sense from the perspective of the kind of disease that the coronavirus is — it’s a respiratory illness, not a gastrointestinal one.

So why the stockpiling? According to various media stories, the reasons include (1) concerns that there will be a shortage and (2) preparation in case of a quarantine.

Officials, according to media reports, say that there is no shortage, except for temporary ones caused by the stockpiling.

The preparedness aspect, though, is valid and one that I can relate to. Although I grew up in a suburb where stores were just minutes away, I now live in the country, quite a distance from the nearest grocery store and on often-impassable roads. Therefore, I have learned to keep necessities on hand.

At least, I’ve mostly learned. There have been times when I’ve had kids sick with a cold and no tissues on hand. And I’m certain there was a time when I ran out of toilet paper but had several cases of beans on the pantry shelf — not a good combo.

Overall, though, I have enough supplies to withstand an extended period of time at home, and that’s a good thing. You never know what will happen in life. Today it’s the coronavirus. Tomorrow … who knows?

So, hopefully, one thing that will last after the coronavirus has run its course is Americans’ desire to be prepared — on a continuing basis, though, and not all at once.

Readers may contact Sheila at or 45092 859th Road, Bassett, NE 68714.


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