Ulmer: Trying to understand the rush to buy toilet paper

Ulmer: Trying to understand the rush to buy toilet paper


A virus is a submicroscopic infectious agent (like 20,000 of them would fit on the head of a pin) that invades, lives and replicates only inside a living host cell. It develops a protein shell that makes it capable of transferring from cell to cell or host to host. Once a virus gets hold of its host, it infects it and usually causes some sort of nasty illness.

Viruses have been around long before we got here, but it took thousands of years before we discovered their existence and how they operate. Over millennia, viruses have mutated and created all sorts of plagues: bubonic, small pox, Spanish, Ebola, SARS, swine, and the common flu to name a few that have brought civilizations to a halt.

Viruses are probably one of the greatest challenges to creationism, as well as a solid affirmation of evolution. Just when we think we seem to have vaccinated ourselves to one, another evolves.

So here you and I are today trying to avoid getting snagged by the flu’s latest mutation: coronavirus. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been warned that I’m in the most vulnerable category of this one. I’m a senior and have a good share of the variety of the disorders that increases coronavirus lethality.

Since I don’t have much else to do, I’ve been paying attention to warnings and pontifications that our media and government have been touting.

It would be accurate to say that I, and I think it’s safe to include you, have never experienced anything like this one. The closest thing I can compare this to would be an old fashioned three-day blizzard where we were all trapped inside until we could shovel ourselves out. Comparatively speaking, I’ll take the blizzard over the coronavirus.

Who would have thought that we’d close schools for weeks, call off March Madness, cancel a high school tournament halfway through, cancel entire sports seasons, concerts, and other public events and watch the stock market collapse while wondering if we have to shut down and isolate an entire country. It all kinda seems like an apocalyptic horror movie where our entire species is wiped out from an invisible bug that’s spread by a mere encounter with another human.

As such we’re instructed not to shake another’s hands, to keep a distance of 6 feet between us, stay away from large gatherings and be leery about touching anything that someone else may have touched/infected. This is called practicing social distancing which seems quite close to public quarantine and is likely to be very difficult to follow.

Given all this, we have been encouraged to purchase enough supplies to last through two weeks of quarantine. Of course we’re not supposed to panic and try to carry on our lives as best we can, but it has been interesting to watch our reactions.

The weird part is trying to understand why the coronavirus has caused an overwhelming rush on the purchase of toilet paper. Most of us heard that stores were selling out of toilet paper, numerous photos of empty store shelves were posted on the internet.

The shortage then seemed to cause a mad rush to find a store that had some toilet paper, and I can’t tell you how many people were proudly boasting that after extensive searches they found a supply.

At first it seemed rather humorous. I get the run on hand sanitizer, but toilet paper? Does this virus cause a horrifying diarrhea? I understand the most difficult symptom centers on the lungs, so why toilet paper over Kleenex?

Anyway, here’s hoping that you’re able to avoid catching this dang thing and that your toilet paper supply lasts way past this bug. Hang in there, but not too close.

Dan Ulmer is a parent, grandparent, as well as a retired teacher, counselor, politician, lobbyist, public employee, nonprofit executive and opinionated citizen who believes that we need to do what we can to leave the world better off than we found it.


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