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Our 27th year of publishing

Published April 27, 2021

A year ago we stood in line for toilet paper

By John Toth / The Bulletin

I was trying to score some toilet paper and hand sanitizer about a year ago; paper towels would have been nice, or a bottle of disinfectant.

I would not even have dreamed of lucking into some hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes. That was the unreachable grand prize.

Wear a mask or don’t? The world shut down, hoping to isolate the virus from new hosts. A vaccine was barely talked about.

Small businesses were taking a beating. Restaurants closed and had to figure out how to make money by offering drive-through-only service. Entertainment venues were shuttered. Those who made their living operating or working in gyms were out of luck.

That’s the way it was one year ago.

We’ve come a long way, but not all the way. We still have a long journey ahead before things return to normal, if that will even happen.

A year ago, the world stood still while we tried to learn more about this killer virus. There were almost no planes flying and few cars on the road. Cities that were bathed in a haze of smog daily before the shutdown cleared up. In Venice, fish were seen swimming in the canals. If they were there before, the murky sludge humans created made them invisible.

I walked outside each morning and inhaled a lungful of cleaner air. This would not be so bad if we could have it all the time without a pandemic. Maybe we could find a way to have our cake and eat it, too.

While Mother Earth loved our virus-forced stagnation, we still had to get some basic things done on a daily basis, such as finding toilet paper and paper towels on store shelves.

I understood why scared people would grab up the bacteria-killing wipes and sprays, but I never could understand why they cleared the shelves of all paper products made in the USA?

How would paper towels and toilet paper help defend against the virus? I’ve never made the connection.
I can also understand people clearing out the shelves of bottled water, bread and canned foods before a hurricane. That’s normal for our area. The supply chain expects that and adjusts. But the supply chain could not have connected a virus threat with a run on paper goods. They don’t make computers smart enough to predict the irrational.

I even put the question on public Facebook sites to see if I was missing something. I’ve never received a good explanation. Dear reader, if you have a good one, please send it along.

Maybe people who accumulated a garageful of these products thought they could make a killing reselling them later. There has to be a better way to make money, though, than to speculate in toilet paper during a pandemic.

New information about the virus emerged almost daily, sometimes contradicting old information as scientists were trying to figure it out.

Meanwhile, I needed toilet paper and set out to find some. After a half dozen tries, all I saw were empty shelves where the toilet paper used to be. Then, late in the afternoon, I stopped by Dollar General in Sweeny.

“This is probably a dumb question, but you wouldn’t have any toilet paper, would you?”

The clerk looked at me and probably saw the desperation in my eyes, perhaps hopelessness, the fear that I’d return home empty handed.

“We sure do - just came in. They’re in the back There's no limit,” she replied, anticipating the second part of my question.

I grabbed two large bundles. I didn’t care about the price; it was the same as always. I was a happy camper.

“Are you sure that’s all you want?” she asked.

“That’s all I need. This will last us for a while,” I replied.

Wasn’t that nice of me? I could have bought many more and stored them in my garage. But that would have made me a hoarder.

I drove home carefully, not to damage the valued find.

It was a great feeling - like winning the lotto, which I have never won, but I’m sure it feels similar. Success.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)