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The great toilet paper wars of 2020

A notice limiting only 3 packages of toilet

A notice limiting only 3 packages of toilet paper per customer is displayed on picked bare shelves after shoppers cleaned out the stock of paper and cleaning products at a local grocery store in Burbank, Calif. on March 14, 2020. Credit: AP/Richard Vogel

We are amid a scary national emergency. Yes, the great toilet paper panic of 2020 rolls on.

Why are so many people obsessed with buying enough toilet paper to supply an army? There is plenty of it in the national supply chain. It offers no known protection against the coronavirus. So what gives?

In a pandemic, the government suggests storing a two-week supply of food, water and household items. Not a two-year supply. There’s a big difference between being prepared for an emergency and hoarding, particularly of items that are unlikely to suffer a shortage.

Panic buying creates nothing — except more panic buying. I get it: When you see someone rolling out of Costco with 10 bags of groceries and a separate cart piled to the sky with toilet paper, you feel like you should do so as well. The toilet paper maniac who hauls 40 packs of Charmin to his car is making it difficult for the poor schlub who just needs one.

Why do some people seem more worried about the shortage of toilet paper than of coronavirus test kits? There is no shortage of it, or for that matter, water, chicken, or beef. If people didn’t panic, store shelves would be fully stocked.

Toilet paper takes up a lot of room, and when those shelves are bare, people freak out. But if shelves are empty, trust me: They will soon be replenished. If you temporarily run out, use tissues. But don’t use too many, or you will clog the toilet. You’re welcome.

Meanwhile, that empty shelf space is driving people to take desperate measures. Will we start seeing toilet paper scalpers lurking behind Costco? You know, the types who slink around sports and concert venues? “Psst, I’ve got Charmin, I’ve got Angel Soft, for the best seats —$10 a roll. Meet you in the back alley.”

In Australia, three women got into a hair-pulling brawl over a cartful of toilet paper. Where will it end?

Ever watch the cable TV show “Hoarders”? Grossly overstocking items such as toilet paper makes them feel secure. It also makes them very unstable. So let’s not act like them. Because amid a real crisis, it’s not smart to create a fake one.

Follow playwright Mike Vogel at @mikewrite7.

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