Toilet paper seems to be number one during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When someone asks you, “What three items would you want with you if you were stranded on a desert island?” what do you usually answer? Typical answers are a Kindle (all that time to read), a phone (so you can call for help), chocolate (essential survival food). But did toilet paper ever make it high on your list? Presumably you’d have some leaves at your disposal! Leaves too prickly? Wash off in the ocean.

Move over, desert islands. Now the question is, “If you were stranded in your house for an extended social distancing quarantine, what items would you want with you?” And the unanimous answer echoing around the world has clearly been: A lifetime supply of toilet paper.

Billions of rolls have been snapped up; people are worried they don’t have enough. And it’s happening all over! In Hong Kong, an armed gang stole 600 rolls of toilet paper. An Australian newspaper printed an issue with eight extra blank “one-ply” pages, you know, just in case their readers were really desperate.

How did the coronavirus cause a TP shortage? As Dr. Steven Taylor, a professor, clinical psychologist and author of The Psychology of Pandemics, said, it doesn’t seem very logical: “Why toilet paper? It’s not gonna stop you from getting infected!”

He explained, “When you’re presented with a pandemic, a big new, scary thing, and the government is telling us that we don’t need to do anything special to deal with it — just wash your hands and so on — people feel the need to do something to prepare. So people are stocking up as a way of preparing themselves. When people do that, it’s inevitable that some people are going to over-shop.”

Fear is just as contagious as the coronavirus, if not more so. In fact, Taylor said if you ask most shoppers leaving grocery stores with mountains of toilet paper why they bought so much, many say things like, “I don’t know; everyone else was.”

Which is why if you see some panic-stricken people grabbing up all the toilet paper, you’re more likely to feel anxious and start doing the same, causing even more people to run
panic-stricken to the toilet paper aisle to stock up, too … Before we know it, the store shelves are completely empty, there’s a nationwide shortage and that dilapidated old house that was TP’d is listed on Zillow for $12.5 million!

That age-old getting-to-know-you question has actually materialized: What items would you bring to a desert island? Only now your desert island is your home, and your family’s marooned along with you. We have literally all the comforts of home: toilet paper, WiFi, running water, electricity. Yup, we’re holed up for some time. It’s not easy. But we’re all in the same boat.

Try to enjoy your family (always easier said than done when in you’re in tight quarters with Those Who Annoy You Most). Watch movies. Play games. Do yardwork. Read. Mend things around the house. Prepare for Pesach (it’s still coming, corona pandemic or not!) Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in ages. Call senior friends. Do yoga. Cook. Color. Dance. Sing. Write letters.

Time will pass quickly. In the meantime, let’s make the best of it.

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