It’s one of those moments that make history — unfortunately, for a scary reason. With the advent of the coronavirus and all the fear it brings, these are very tough times indeed. And trying to find the light — and the lighter things — about these days is not at all easy. So we muddle through, we make every effort to be aware and try to be safe; we hope that the experts find their way to getting us past it and keeping us healthy; and we do our best to take care of ourselves and each other.
And I truly believe that that includes looking for a laugh, or even a giggle, wherever we can. To wit:
After doing my weekly supermarket run yesterday — my first hint that it was going to be a long day was that at 7:30 am there were far too many cars in the parking lot — I ventured to take my mother-in-law out for her supermarket run. The item high on her list? Toilet paper. (Go ahead, laugh. It’s funny.)
I couldn’t find any for her at my supermarket so, before picking her up (and after packing up a few rolls from our place for her), I headed over to Target. It wasn’t even 9 am and, when I arrived, I saw people on line to pay, their carts overflowing (I kid you not) with packs and packs of TP — 12-roll packs, 24-roll packs, 72-roll packs. (Seems like a bit of overkill but whatever makes you feel better, right?)
So, feeling optimistic, I approached the paper goods aisle — only to find it empty. Not a single roll of toilet paper to be found. Not a sheet. No two-ply, no one-ply, no reply.
On my way out of the store I stopped at customer service to suggest that perhaps they might want to put a limit on TP purchases per customer?
“Oh, we do,” I was reassured. “The limit is six packages.”
“Six packages?” I was incredulous. “That means people are walking out of here with anywhere from 72 to 432 rolls of toilet paper.” I paused for effect. “Don’t you think that’s a little excessive?” No reply.
Okay, now the hunt was on. I grabbed my mother-in-law and we headed off to her supermarket where, to no one’s surprise, there was no toilet paper. Huge, 45-minute lines, though, and a pre-K teacher in front of us who explained adorably that tissues were her back-up to toilet paper and that napkins were her back-up to paper towels — as the lines backed up all the way to the back of the store.
And then the main event. From seemingly nowhere, a woman’s voice rang out. She was confronting another woman, whose only crime was that she had inadvertently and mistakenly thought she was getting on the end of the line. Unfortunately, she was wrong. The end of the line was way further away; in fact, the line was broken in the middle by a space for carts to get by and then continued beyond that space.
And Ms. Aisle Rage was taking her to task. “I’m sorry,” the other woman said, pointing at the line behind her. “I didn’t realize that the line continued from here.” “You didn’t realize?” Ms. Aisle Rage bellowed before threatening, “You better get that finger out of my face or I’ll bite it off!” Figuring it was best not to inform the bully that the finger wasn’t pointed anywhere near her face but behind her, the other woman retreated. Very nice. I wondered whom Ms. Aisle Rage had run over to get the multi-pack of toilet paper in her cart.
But it wasn’t all bad. There was the lovely woman we had met at the fish counter. (For no one but my mother-in-law would I stand at a fish counter. It’s just … ugh. The only fish I’ll eat is tuna on rye and even then, meh). This woman informed us that there was plenty of TP at Home Depot. “Toilet paper, water, and paper towels,” she pronounced. “And you know why? Because only men shop there and they don’t buy any of that stuff.” Okaaaay.
So after the supermarket, that’s where we headed. Did I mention that by now it had started pouring? It doesn’t rain in southern California for months and months at a time but now, when the entire region was out buying toilet paper, it chose to do so. Maybe the heavens were crying over the world crisis — or maybe they were laughing so hard that they were brought to tears.
Anyway, to no one’s real surprise, Home Depot had no toilet paper. “Maybe we should ask someone if they have any in the back?” my mother-in-law piped up. Gotta love the enthusiasm, but no. And no.
We finally drove back to her place and I helped her unpack, leaving her with a total of three rolls, three boxes of tissues, and three wishes that I could find just one pack of two-ply. Sigh.
So, because I have a hard time admitting defeat, on my way home I took a detour to one final supermarket. Walking in, I saw people with TP in their carts — not excessive amounts. My heart beating faster, I took off to the paper goods aisle. And there it was. Not Charmin. Not Cottonelle. Not even Angel Soft. A few four-packs of the store brand — double rolls! the package exclaimed although they were puny — awaited. I grabbed one and drove the treasure back to the woman who had done me the enormous favor of giving birth to the love of my life.
A little bit of laughter in the face of all this fear was just what we needed. (I could have lived without the long lines, but what are you going to do?). We’ll just have to grin and bear it.
Life rolls on.
© 2020 Claudia Grossman