At the beginning of the Pandemic we could find toilet paper nowhere. My friend, Wendy, asked if we needed anything from the grocery store, where here husband Jessie works. We could use some toilet paper, my wife Cindy told here.
The next day we had a bundled package of rolls that continues to supply us to this day.
My friend Craig Walker shares these fun reflections on toilet paper during this strange time. He's written a series called "Hoping for...." Today's story is Hoping for Toilet Paper:
The title that I really wanted to use for this page was the Theology of Toilet Paper, but to fit in with the series, I have used the above instead. Firstly, is the problem of saying “toilet.” That just is not acceptable in certain circles. Instead it needs to be called “bath tissue.” But “bath tissue” just doesn’t grab the readers’ attention in the same way. So, I shall call it toilet paper in spite of any objections because part of the writer’s craft is to grab the readers’ attention.
The word “theology” conjures up a far more esoteric approach to those white rolls that we have so fondly squirreled away in our cupboards. Yes, it is much like the squirrels putting acorns in their hideaway. The markets are (or were) filled with squirrel-like people carrying away shopping carts (in Australia “trollies”) filled with toilet paper. Upon seeing this, a visitor from another world could only conclude that toilet paper cures COVID-19. Or, if you have enough toilet paper on hand, you and your household will be protected from the virus.
It is important to note that theology is the study of God. You see, “God” is a rarified word that brings toilet paper up to an intellectual level and allows us to ask questions that never before have appeared. Is there a God of toilet paper? Can we doubt that toilet paper exists? Was toilet paper created from nothing? What does toilet paper mean in Greek? What did toilet paper mean to the first readers or hearers of those words? Then my favorite question: What are the phenomenological implications of toilet paper?
These questions have never even been asked before. Now the doors of intellectual discourse have been opened and scholars will be able to debate these topics for years. Undoubtedly Ph.D. degrees will be granted to those who spend years studying these topics.
In 1973 there was a world shortage of toilet paper. People were going home with a whole back seat filled with rolls. Subsequent studies showed that there was no less toilet paper being manufactured. Rumors started in the US that there would be a shortage and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy as it spread around the world, much like the COVID-19 virus is spreading today.
I heard a radio program interviewing people about how much toilet paper they had at home. One lady had enough for 17 months. It is claimed that the same amount of toilet paper is being manufactured today as a year ago. It is true, that people staying home are going to be using more toilet paper. The commercial tissue used at work is different enough that it cannot be switched to the home market. That is why many restaurants and other businesses have sold off their stock of toilet paper.
The main cause for this shortage is hoarding. One person interviewed had actually filled a spare bedroom with extra supplies, much of it toilet paper. That is a sad commentary on where we are today because hoarding is patently unfair and selfish.
But why toilet paper? I can only guess that it is considered an essential for comfort. Yet there are other things that bring comfort that are not being hoarded. How about beer and potato chips? For non-drinkers like me, how about chocolate chip cookies? I have watched a lot of TV in these last weeks. I have not seen one ad for toilet paper---you know, one of those ads where a doctor is holding a roll. At the bottom of the screen you see the words, “An actor, not a real person.”
Real persons need toilet paper. I don’t know what the answer is. I do know that if I see a package at the market, I’ll buy it because we have a limited supply and there is something nice about having enough bath tissue. For toilet paper we can always hope.