Why Toilet Paper? Well…here’s why

So we’re sittin’ around here, contemplating the mysteries of Life, the Universe, and All That, when one of the greatest of mysteries impinges upon our consciousness: Why are vast tribes of people hoarding toilet paper, in the expectation of a (usually rather mild) disease that is unlikely to cause diarrhea? Even with with quarantining a given (which it was not when the toilet paper mania began), what is the fixation on TP?

Welp, I have — AH HAH! — a theory.

Here ’tis…

Funny’s Theory of Toilet Paper Affection

Among the American affluent classes, and the somewhat moneyed middle classes, everybody and his little brother, sister, aunt & uncle has a vacation home in the boondocks: In Arizona, for example, that would mean forest and desert retreats like Pinetop, Payson, Strawberry, Prescott, Yarnell, the North Rim, the White Mountains, Bisbee, Patagonia, and many waypoints north to south, east to west. Most of these second homes are furnished for weekends; some for a month or two of full-time residence during the summer. But by and large they stand vacant and waiting.

So. If you could see Armageddon coming — in the form of a contagious disease that was likely to get you and your family confined to your home for several weeks — where would you rather be held captive? In a plaster and styrofoam hut in a jam-packed eave-to-eave suburb? Or in a glorified “cabin” (more like resort quarters) on three acres of forest or scenic grassland?

You got it.

If we still had the ranch up on the Rim outside of Yarnell, that’s where I’d be right now.

And what are you gonna do if you figure the kids are going to be shut out of school, you’re probably going to be told to work from home (or be laid off), and all of you are going to be locked up together for anywhere from two weeks to three months?

What you are gonna do is load the kids and the dog into the vehicle, turn on the burglar alarm, lock up the shack in the Valley of the We-Do-Mean Sun,  and drive up to your vacation cabin. That’s what you’re gonna do.

And if you’re going to hole up for some period up to, say, 90 days with your three kids, the family dog, the cat, and two sets of in-laws, what are you gonna need, in addition to food? That’s right:

Toilet paper!

Nor would you need an expensive, maintenance-sucking second home to feel the impulse to stock up with necessaries. Many people in our parts have campers — either pickup shells that convert your Ford F-150 into a rolling hunter’s cabin or fancy living-rooms on wheels of various sizes, some as capacious as a small house. What would you bring with you if you figured you were going to be living out of your car or camper for anywhere from three weeks to three months?

Hell, yeah:

Toilet paper!

Even if you don’t have a vehicle tricked out to accommodate the Life of Riley, plain old camping is just not that hard — even over the long term. SDXB and I did it for three straight months, trekking through the outback of Alaska and Canada. With a camp tent, a propane campstove, a few dishes, and a couple of towels. We slept under a roof one (1) night, when it was raining too hard to cope.

We did it for fun, so trust me: it was no particular hardship.

But…if you weren’t an experienced long-haul camper but you figured you’d better be prepared to stay in the boondocks for a good long while, and you planned on car-camping rather than hiking, what provision (other than food) would you really, truly, NOT want to run out of?

Yup:

Toilet paper!

heee! So this is the theory. People aren’t buying TP to stock their houses here in the Big City. They’re using it to stock vacation homes, campers, cars, duffle bags full of camping gear. They’re not stocking one home. They’re stocking two, or even maybe three, if they have a vacation house and a camper.

7 thoughts on “Why Toilet Paper? Well…here’s why”

  1. That’s a good, imaginative explanation. Mine is that people have heard for years that “real preppers” stock up on tp. So they do too.

  2. Maybe that’s a possibility for AZ but here in The Natural State (naturally broke), not that many people have more than one residence. Not that many people own RVs or other such vehicles. So why is all the T.P. gone?
    My theory is that most people don’t have a stockpile of essentials. Because they live paycheck-to-paycheck, they usually wait until they’re down to the last roll before they buy more. Because we import so much from China, and China has been hit so hard by the pandemic, we’re afraid those Chinese factories will stop manufacturing things that we really need, like T.P. Maybe we’ll stop allowing Chinese ships to dock and unload cargo. Or something else will happen to keep us from getting that toilet paper. Although Germany exports more of it, China follows in second place. How much you wanna bet we get most of our T.P. from China? (not working, so have a lot of time on my hands to do research)

    • After doing more research, I’ve learned that most of our T.P. does NOT come from China, but I still say the average American doesn’t know this. ;o)

  3. And at this point, most people in the service industries are not living from paycheck-to-paycheck, either, because with restaurants and just about everything else closed down, they’re out of work. I think you’re right: most people buy for this week or this month, not for some unknown and unseeable catastrophe.

    In my case, I happen to have a fair amount of food in the house (and toilet paper! and paper towels!!) only because I’m in the habit of shopping at Costco and I have a freezer. The only way you can use Costco efficiently is to freeze or store most of the products you buy there, stretching out visits to the store to about one each month or every six weeks. When you do that, most of the time you have a stockpile on hand.

    But that’s not the way most of us shop at a regular grocery store. How many of us buy a lifetime supply of TP at the Walmart Neighborhood Market or the Safeway? In those places, I buy only enough for a week or so…partly out of habit, and partly because that’s how products are packaged and sold in those stores. In a Safeway you buy one steak per package, not six of them. In a Safeway, you pick up a package with maybe four rolls of TP, at most; at Costco, a package of TP has 30 rolls.

    Because a single Costco run can cost $300+, shopping there requires you to have a lifestyle that allows you to stock up a month’s worth of supplies (and the room to store it), and the ability to stay out of stores in between Costco junkets. If you spend 300 bucks on at Costco once a month, that’s less than $100 a week for almost all food and household products. As a practical matter, if you eat a lot of fresh produce you do end up going to a grocery store once a week or so.

    As for the TP frenzy? My guess would be that most Americans are not smart enough to envision a scenario in which TP would become unavailable because of a plague in China. Notice that we voted Donald Trump into the Oval Office, and that there are people out there who truly, sincerely believe the covid-10 epidemic is a hoax. Concocted by Democrats!

    A nation of sheep…

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