Column: COVID-19 and the panicked pursuit of splinter free TP

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

Admittedly, some of my more inspired thinking occurs in the bathroom.

I don’t know how many times a bathroom break at work was the distraction needed to come up with that headline or story lead I’d been struggling with moments prior.

Arguably, a walk outside might have had the same effect.

It was during a bathroom visit the weekend before last that I found myself considering our longstanding reliance upon single, double or even triple-ply toilet paper – tiny tissues manufactured to be luxuriously kitteny soft for the purpose of keeping our posteriors clean. And now, amid concerns around COVID-19, one of the most sought after products on the planet.

How fragile has the foundation of our existence become that we would lash out at one another to procure a roll of butt wipe?

Did you know there is actually a website on the history of toilet paper? The cleverly named Toilet Paper History suggests use of paper products for personal hygiene originated with the Chinese in second-century BC, with the first “modern” roll created in 1391 for Chinese royalty.

“Splinter-free” TP apparently rolled out in 1935. If that doesn’t send a shiver down your backside, you’re made of, or at least used to wiping with, sturdier stuff.

News reporters need to be made of fairly sturdy stuff, given the demands of the job, but that doesn’t mean we are insensitive to public criticism.

Read more: Okanagan shelves wiped bare of toilet paper

Read more: Toilet paper roll selling for $100 on Craigslist as people capitalize on COVID-19 fears

Read more:Toilet paper flying off shelves at Salmon Arm stores amid COVID-19 concerns

Soon after posting a recent story about Salmon Arm’s bout of toilet paper panic, fingers were pointed at we, the media, for being responsible for people’s shopping habits and concerns around the spread of COVID-19. Those who read the story would have seen a repeated message, that proper hand washing is a far more reasoned, proactive approach than hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer, etc.

That said, the criticism is still justified. We are being steadily bombarded with COVID-19 related stories, images and videos via traditional and social media. Along with the good information, there have also been some absurd headlines that have undoubtedly added some impulsive buys to our grocery list. (My favourite: Local drug dealer gives up selling amphetamines and moves into toilet paper).

When shopping for groceries last week, there was a moment when I had a package of toilet paper in hand, questioning whether or not to buy it – whether or not we needed it. I put it back on the shelf. We already had enough at home, and I already had enough on my mind.

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