A World Less Certain | TP is the Word!

Do you have any extra TP to lend (I mean, use)?

Dear reader: I am a firm believer that sharing during a time of crisis is an act of love. It is with this “sharing is caring” spirit, a series of weekly articles about dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) is born. In the coming days and weeks, and likely months, stories about shared experiences and some historical perspective will be offered as a means to help navigate the fallout of this outbreak together.

This week, I delve into what’s on just about everyone’s mind – toilet paper.

The word on the street is TP.

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By the way, do you have any? Any TP at all? All over the country (and world), we hear the same two words, “toilet paper” almost as frequently as the menacing two-words into one: coronavirus. They go hand in hand. Who knew?

Word up! I mean, what y’all didn’t see comin’ is my gain. Cruel, I know, but that’s the mindset of a truly legit urban survivalist – the people who went into survivor-mode at the first mention of COVID-19. You know who I’m talking about. THEM!

The smart ones! The truly-gifted global disaster predictors, they undoubtedly sold their stocks early, and simply hunkered down. Probably the same folks who build bomb shelters in the Mojave Desert, stocking them up with five years of supplies to survive the Zombie Apocalypse. Who are they? We may never know because they’re not talking. I imagine they’ll resurface from time to time, perhaps even appearing on Skype or Zoom or FaceTime with their smartphones, while their stockpile of toilet tissue is neatly stacked into the shape of a pyramid or a temple. A trophy for themselves – smartly out of sight – as they revel in their utter genius.

I hate them. Not really. The truth is, I blame myself. While Italy went into lockdown, I sat on my behind cheering LeBron and AD, watching them clip the Clippers at Staples Center. And when Rudy Gobert became the first NBA player to test positive for coronavirus leading to the suspension of the season, I turned on the radio to follow the fallout of the unprecedented cancellation of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. March Madness swept the country for real. That’s when I suddenly realized the grocery store shelves in the toilet paper section completely cleaned out.

But who could have guessed that in no time at all the mild-mannered epidemic would soon morph into a pandemic horror show we must watch in lockdown at home?

Excuse me. I need to read my text. The text reads: Hope you had a restful night. I went to the store this morning. It’s nuts! No TP. No water too!

Water. Why water? A friendly Rite-Aid clerk told me, the first wave of hoarders gobbled up bottled water like thirsty monsters. As if the evil scientist who concocted this virus attack, is somehow deriving pleasure by watching their Krakens devour our precious supplies. The Kraken is the terrifying beast in the fantasy action-adventure film, Clash of the Titans (2010). Imagine the disturbing scene with me now: “Brother, it is time for the mortals to pay.” The actor, Liam Neeson, in his finest role ever as Zeus, reluctantly gives the command with resounding authority, “Release the Kraken!”

I still don’t get it, what is so awful about sourcing filtered water from the refrigerator door, or tap water from our home faucets? Both are safe to drink, even during abnormal times. But now, things are anything but normal. I have finally seen the light, and I wish nothing more than to experience again the light feel of silky-soft tissues gently caressing my, well, you know what they do.

I loathe myself for dismissing the intrinsic value of modern-day toilet paper. I wish to unwrap a twelve-pack of bath tissues at this very moment just to release its fresh lavender scent. I dearly miss my Angel Soft.

The hoarding hordes amongst us: our neighbors, workmates, friends, and yes, family members. THEM are the ones who cleared the shelves of our local supermarkets to stockpile more than their fair share of water and toilet paper – more than they can probably use in a lifetime! Try reaching out to them in an email chain or group text, as did a resident of our Ostrich Farm Lofts. In a moment of exasperation (near meltdown), she politely offered several items in exchange for a roll or two? Nothing, except the sound of crickets.

No matter. Humans are naturally giving creatures during normal times. And maybe a bit more self-centered and silent during troubled times. The smart ones anyway.

Gotta go, a close friend just sent me a text: “Word up, bro. Just bought some TP at Hi Ho!” The liquor store on Avenue 64.

Shhh. Promise not to tell anyone! For now, let it be our dirty little secret.

Written and produced by Rick Thomas


Rick Thomas
Author Rick Thomas is the former museum curator and vice-chair of education for the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation. He served on the South Pasadena Natural Resources Commission, helping to maintain a strict policy protecting the city’s great old-growth trees. Using touchstone photographs from his own collection—one of the San Gabriel Valley’s largest accumulations of historical images and artifacts—as well as national, state, and local historical archives, Thomas provides a window to his city’s past and an understanding of why its preservation is so important.