The true culprit of our toilet paper crisis

In stark contrast to our standard ‘She’ll be right’ approach, Aussies have begun genuinely prepping for the apocalypse.

As one might imagine could occur in conjunction with end-of-world arrangements, there’s been a definitive up-tick in the supermarket sales of canned goods, bottled water and long life milk. And fair enough. If you’re buckling down in a bunker to wait out the wiping out of humankind, you’re probably going to need some sustenance to keep you going while you’re down there.

The bizarre bit is that supermarkets across the nation have been completely cleaned out of toilet paper.

It sounds like something out of an Andy Griffith’s book. But I kid you not; I have visited 4 supermarkets in the past 3 days, and there’s not a scrap of loo roll remaining. Entire aisles are eerily bare. Heck, the first store I tried had even been emptied of tissues, paper towel and serviettes.

Given the total dearth of bum-cleansing materials, I felt acutely relieved at discovering I still had nine loo rolls stashed under my laundry sink. But alongside the relief was a whole lot of confusion.

Why toilet paper? Where was it all going? And when would it be back?

It occurred to me that while some people were comprehensively losing their sh!t over the corona situation*, such individuals were likely in the minority. After all, most people I encountered weren’t shirking work to batten down the hatches in anticipation of an impending apocalypse.

Rather, like me, most were simply noticing the lack of toileting supplies and starting to mentally calculate the approximate number of bum-wiping days they had left before their own dwindling supply might start to become problematic.

In response to this increased awareness, such individuals were loading up on loo roll preemptively when they happened upon it. This proactive purchasing further drained the standard supermarket supply, perpetuating the problem which would likely have otherwise resolved itself.

In summary, the toilet paper problem was not being caused by cataclysmic corona concerns. It was simply a secondary symptom driven by herd mentality and FOMO.

This is not the first time FOMO has been to blame for major crises. Poo-paper quandry aside, fear-driven herd behaviour has underpinned a whole heap of other irrational man–made disasters.

Rapid, unforseen stock market crashes, for example, are rarely due to any true change in fundamental stock value. Rather, they typically occur in response to anticipatory anxiety that fellow shareholders will imminently stock-dump.

Bank runs likewise typically take place as a herd-style fear response; ironically often causing the feared disaster (bank insolvency and evaporation of savings) to come to fruition.

Stampedes in which people (or Lion Kings) are devastatingly crushed to death often also start when a crowd senses there is something to be scared about despite not necessarily knowing what that something is, and surge together en masse. It might be a loud noise that frightens a herd of buffalo into a stampede. Or it might simply be fear of missing out on a particularly good department store deal at 8.00am on Black Friday.

In every case, the situation is the same. Fear is more contagious than a cruise ship full of corona virus. And reacting to that fear can actually cause the worst of it to be realised.

So next time you feel the urge to flip out because everyone around you is flipping out, just stop.

Take a breath.

Put your 6 tetra-packs of toilet paper back on the shelf.

And remind yourself that a little bit of calm can go a long way when it comes to preventing true disaster.

* The irony of losing one’s sh*t at a time when there’s nothing to wipe with is not lost on me.

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