By Norma Staaf
My sister told me that at her local grocery store in suburban Massachusetts, a customer punched the store manager in the face for trying to enforce limits on toilet paper purchasing.
Think about that — a guy risking an assault charge over toilet paper. Really? Take a breath people.
Of all the things to get excited about, many of us are asking, why toilet paper?
One theory is “social contagion,” defined by the American Psychological Society as: The “spread of behaviors, attitudes and affect through crowds … from one member to another.”
“Seeing people stock up on toilet paper changes the perception of how necessary it is. When you mimic this behavior, you experience a psychological reward that you’ve done something right,” psychotherapist Bethany Marshall said in a recent Yahoo Lifestyle article.
Since it is a large package easily visible in carts, you can’t miss it. It sticks out of bags. While people may be stocking up on a lot of other items, toilet paper is the most obvious. When shoppers see empty toilet paper shelves it can cause them distress.
“It’s not that people get selfish during emergencies, but they look inward when motivated by fear,” Marshall said.
Another explanation Marshall offered is that during times of stress we feel a lack of control, which may cause people to cling to basic needs, one of which is toilet paper, a household staple. Don’t fear: About 90 percent of the toilet paper is made in the United States, so there is not a shortage. Because it takes so much room to store, manufacturers don’t stockpile it. They produce it to meet demand. Clearwater Paper makes it locally.
People are having fun mocking the toilet paper crisis. Laughter can help reduce stress, so that’s not a bad thing. Here are a few examples from my friends:
Erika K. posted on social media: “Women who grew up in rural areas have been drip-drying in pastures since high school. Ain’t no TP shortage gonna scare us!”
Some older guys near Kooskia noted we may have to go back to using Sears, Roebuck and Co., catalogs (though not flushable, who doesn’t have too many catalogs?).
Linda M., a Clearwater Progress gardening columnist, suggested mullein leaves, which are very soft.
Marie S., of the Kooskia area, posted a photo of an empty toilet paper roll, propped in a glass of water with toothpicks, like you would start growing an avocado tree from a pit.
Clean hands, clean heart
A hand sanitizer buying spree is also ongoing. Unlike toilet paper, the use of hand sanitizer actually does help combat the spread of the virus. Many people have ramped up on hand-washing and sanitizer use, which is a good thing for all of us. Both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend frequent hand-washing and sanitizing.
Sara D. of Harpster shared in a post, “Just wanted to add that you should also consider washing your hands when there’s not a global virus pandemic.”
When this is over, here’s to hoping people will continue washing their hands.
If you are washing and sanitizing so much that your hands are drying out, consider trying some local handmade bar soap. I have met quite a few soap makers at various craft fairs and farmers markets around the area. Some of the handmade soaps include higher quality ingredients that may be less drying because of different oils used.
Just say no to shaking hands
To be honest, I’ve never liked the handshaking ritual. Who knows where the shaker’s hands have been and when they have last been washed? Ew! And often it seems like a lot of handshaking occurs at social events where food is served. Even if you just washed your hands, they can instantly become contaminated by one handshake. Personally, I hope this greeting will go the way of the dodo. Fist-bumping (as a handshaking alternative) went “viral” in 2008 when Barack and Michelle Obama bumped at a campaign speech in Minnesota. Even though this is less risky than an open-handed shake, it still spreads germs.
So what do the experts say? The World Health Organization recommends that safe greetings include “a wave, a nod or a bow.” Though waving and nodding are in my repertoire of greetings, I may try a bow next time I see someone I know. The main point: To be safe, greet people without direct contact and from 6 feet away.
Coronavirus Prevention and Cure
There is no vaccination or medication to prevent you from getting coronavirus and no known cure, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although many scientists are working on these, they don’t exist now. As with any crisis, there are people trying to make a profit from people’s fear. The internet abounds with scams promising preventive medications, cures and at-home tests, none of which are recommended. There are also fake charities that will try to separate you from your money. The Federal Trade Commission includes information on how to avoid and report scams and has created a special category for COVID-19.
What can I do to help?
Minimize face-to-face contact with other people.
Wash your hands.
Sew masks for area hospitals (check to see which ones accept them and what they need first).
Donate to the nearest food bank.
Don’t spread misinformation.
Where to find COVID-19 facts versus fiction or speculation
The World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/COVID-19
The federal government including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Emergency Management and the Federal Trade Commission: https://www.coronavirus.gov
Idaho and Washington each have coronavirus websites that are frequently updated:
Sara D. of Harpster recently shared this post: “Viruses are contagious, so is panic, fear, hysteria, calm, love, enthusiasm, kindness and joy. Choose wisely!”
Norma Staaf is a substitute at the Kamiah Community Library and a freelance writer. She lives with her husband Nick Hazelbaker in the hills near Harpster, where they manage natural resources on their land.