It's Not About the Toilet Paper

Seven people in one house means we go through a lot of toilet paper. When I do my “normal” grocery shopping I can fill two carts… literally. In fact, at Fort Hood, they had a laminated sheet of paper that said, “Customer still shopping” that I placed on my first full cart parked in a closed register line while I filled my second cart. I had a large kitchen space in that house to cook by the month and I had a bigger pantry that allowed me to use PJ Jonas’ pantry system.

Here in Stuttgart I generally fill only one cart to the brim but I have three luxuries that make shopping in-between easier:

  1. My teens can run to the commissary any week-day to grab last-minute things.
  2. German stores have really neat and delicious treats so I save some of our grocery budget for shopping on the economy.
  3. We live precisely 0.2 miles from the commissary.

When I grab the biggest pack of toilet paper, I’m grabbing just what we need for that shopping period.

In preparation for the Corona-stay-at-home-experience I simply grabbed one extra.

But I feel for those who felt compelled to by 3-4 (or more). A good many of those individuals were buying them because they saw the craziness and were afraid that if they didn’t get what they could right then, the stocks would be out and they wouldn’t be able to buy it when they needed it. Sounds logical to me. Fear of shortage.

Others were buying out of fear of this virus. Not that this virus causes people to need more toilet paper because none of the information being released is saying that. They are fearful of the situation in general. And to be perfectly honest, that also sounds logical.

Fear is a strong motivator.

Our world is experiencing a first and no one really knows what to do.

When we don’t know what to do, we do what we can… we control what we can.

And for some reason, what people found they could control was their toilet paper supply. I firmly believe that this is no different than the rush on Cabbage Patch Kids in 1983, Teddy Ruxpin in 1985, Tickle Me Elmo in 1996. The same shortage mentality during those Christmas seasons is happening now and is added to the legitimate concern that they may be sick in the near future and unable to go to the store for more.

As I said, this is a first for our world. Total halt of all things. Let’s give some grace to our neighbors. If you are genuinely unable to find toilet paper when you need it I bet your stockpiling neighbor will help you. If you are the stockpiling neighbor, I ask you to keep an eye out for your friends and neighbors.

As the wise Bigweld said, “See a need, fill a need.” (Robots, 2005)

Last week I posted on my neighborhood Facebook page asking for someone to let me know when our commissary had restocked my favorite coffee. It had been out for about a week and rather than going every day to check I figured someone would pipe in and let me know. I could then head over and buy what I need.

Fortunately if I were out of coffee I could go to the German stores to replenish, but I still had half-a-bag and I have confidence that the commissary will restock soon. Plus, my coffee is cheaper there than on the economy. So I planned to wait another day or two before resorting to shopping off post.

But here’s what happened, because people are awesome. One of my neighbors spent a few minutes checking at our other commissary and let me know that they’re out at that location, as well. Her taking the time to check for me was kind!

When I got back from my run I had a beautiful, green package of Jacobs sitting on the shelf by my door… no note. No one took credit. I want them to so I can thank them and repay the favor, but for now, I’ll just give this shout-out to my awesome neighbors!

Mental heath professionals know that this experience is going to leave an impact on our country. On our world. (Had I run out of coffee, this experience would have left an impact on my family in a totally different sort of way.) All joking aside. Please be aware that even if you aren’t scared, others are. Maybe the only thing they can control is having plenty of toilet paper. And it could have just as easily have been something else. The tide just shifted to toilet paper for some reason. Most of them aren’t trying to be jerks (we all know the story of that one guy who bought 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and I’m not condoning anything along those lines). Most are trying to have a tiny bit of control in a situation that feels completely out of control. (And some may be like ME and have large families and just need that much!)

This is the most ‘out of control’ our world has been in most of our lifetimes. Give people a little grace for finding a bit of peace in a few extra rolls of toilet paper.

It’s not about the toilet paper.


UPDATE: I wrote this blog post on March 17th but didn’t post it because I had Bailey’s and Parker’s birthday post to share, but also because I really don’t want to sound condescending. When I wrote it a week ago, much of the US was still in denial. So much has happened since then and I’m seeing a great deal of people come to the realization that this is a real thing and it’s going to last a bit longer than the anticipated two-weeks. I really do pray that neighbors will help each other out in the US the way I’m seeing the military community here helping one another.

Here in Germany much of the panic is gone, people are settling into their new routines, schools are in session (today, Thursday, March 24th, is Day 4 of distance learning for Stuttgart students). The shelves are restocked, the commissaries and PX have the necessary items for our long-term well-being, and the garrison is being intentional with updating us.

The stats as of now:

  • As of last night there are 33 confirmed Covid-positive individuals in our military community.
  • Groups larger than 2 are banned.
  • The commissary (as of today) is no longer using baggers.
  • There are 15 hand-washing stations all over the garrison and people have to wash hands when entering and leaving.
  • One family member can shop at a time. (This runs on the honor policy and single-parent homes are exceptions)
  • Many units are working alternate shifts to have fewer people in the buildings at once (which fixed parking problems all over the garrison!)
  • Matt will be doing much of his counseling online.
  • Germany has instituted a 25,000€ fine and a multi-year sentence for people caught breaking quarantine. (Not typo. Twenty-five thousand Euro.)
  • Personally, our move is in question: our HHGs pick-up was set for the 6-9 of April and we have to reschedule past May 15th- but I would guess it’ll be later than that. No word yet on if we’ll still fly in June. It’s just too early to even make a guess.
  • All of the Child Development Centers are closed.

(And I never did find out who blessed me with coffee!)

About Jennifer

"Yes, they're all mine." The answer to the question I hear most often.
This entry was posted in family, friends, germany, military. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to It's Not About the Toilet Paper

  1. Maria Currey says:

    Wise and thoughtfully insightful words, dear Jennifer!
    Praying for you and yours in this time of uncertainty and leaning into our God Who holds every second in His Sovereign hand!
    …Holds every measure of this life and its supplies in His hands! Holds you and yours for the perfect time to step into the next season of serving Him.
    Love you and your heart!

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