Those Bad COVID Hoarders Were … Gulp!?

I remember walking into grocery stores back in April, seeing long gray lines of empty shelves in the paper goods section, and muttering, “Those stupid hoarders!

“The world is going to hell in a hand basket and they scarf up a six-months supply of toilet paper when, in a true emergency, we could revert to what people did a century and more ago.”

(Modern toilet paper was first available in 1857, says Google.)

Anyway, back in April, I condemned toilet paper hoarders as “them.”

“Them” is anyone who does something that upright, American, intelligent, patriotic and sensible people do not do. The people lassoed as “them” are individually “they.”

“They” hoard toilet paper and paper towels anytime there is any inkling of a burp in the supply chain … heck, a strong thunderstorm or six-inch winter snowfall.

“They” take stuff that “we” want when we want it.

“They” are bad. Bad “them.”

In politics, we call “them” Democrats — if we are closed-minded, bigoted self-righteous right-wing fanatics. Or we call “them” Republicans — if we are closed-minded, bigoted, self-righteous left-wing fanatics.

In grocery stores and in politics, we go off half-cocked.

In reality, “they” and “them,” Democrats and Republicans, even Libertarians like I am, are … people.”

Yes, back in April, I muttered about hoarders as “them.”

Last week, I saw that those once-empty shelves are filling up nicely. Soft Charmin toilet paper is now available in limited quantity, instead of just that scratchy sandpaper-like stuff or the teeny squares that fall apart at the most inopportune times.

You can’t easily find brand-name Lysol products yet, but generic sanitizers are plentiful. One does need to read the labels. Stuff that kills creepy-crawling insects does not necessarily kill COVID viruses while being safe for human use. But we are getting past the hoarding stage, even though the COVID crises prompts waves of retrograde shutdowns and business closings.

I was pleased to see the restocked shelves.

So I went back home.

I walked into our bathroom. Almost without noticing, I used my toes to push aside the 12-pack of toilet paper that has sat out in our bathroom since we found it in early April. I had hugged that 12-pack all the way through the cashier line, defying the envious gazes of fellow shoppers who, after I snatched that last, lonely package, faced totally empty toilet paper shelves.

We transported it back from our Florida winter sojourn.

The 12-pack would not fit inside the cupboard where we normally keep toilet paper.

That cupboard was, of course, full — of toilet paper.

In previous years (Ah, those idyllic pre-COVID previous years!) our buying pattern had been to have a 12-pack of toilet paper in the upstairs bathroom and a six-pack of toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom.

We are not hoarders. We are not “them.” We are upright, American, intelligent, patriotic and sensible people. We used to buy toilet paper and other paper goods perhaps once a month.

Why is it, then, that we have not bought toilet paper since early April and it is almost August?

Nobody died. Nobody moved out.

Granted, fewer family members or friends have visited in recent months due to COVID social distancing. But gradually, quietly, some extended family members have come here, sitting with us at spaced-out picnic tables rather than gathered side-by-side around our kitchen table.

I hesitate to mention this here, Dear Readers, but those visitors do use bathrooms this year, just as visitors have always used our bathrooms, just as we use bathrooms when we are away from home. Bodily functions, however unmentionable in polite society, do continue.

So why have we not bought toilet paper since early April?

Why, now that it is nearly August, do we have, by my count, just under 50 rolls still stashed around the house?

Could it be … NO! Say it is not so!

Say that we are not … “them”! Tell us that we are not “they”!

Do not call us Republicans! Or Democrats!

Or … even worse … pray, do not condemn us as … HOARDERS! The shame! The guilt! The deeply internal gloating that, yes, we have toilet paper, and we do not give a damn — a DAMN — whether you have toilet paper because, back in April, by Gawwd, we got ours and so there, Neener Neener!

Aren’t we all such hypocrites on occasion?

We mutter at empty grocery store shelves, ignoring the hoard we have stashed at home.

We mutter at political differences, ignoring the reality that “they” are our spouses, parents, children, neighbors, co-workers, church companions, etc.

Resurrect Pogo and Albert the Alligator comics characters from back in the 1960s: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Who are the hoarders? Who are the political imbeciles? Who are the anti-Americans?

Another cliche conveys the answer: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall….”

Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: denny2319@windstream.net.


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