BY MARCUS DAY
Suffering from acute hockey and skiing withdrawal symptoms? At a loss because you can’t play VLTs at the Jasper?
No need to panic, a new sport seems to be gaining popularity in our coronavirus-conscious world … Toilet Roll Combat.
If my sources are correct about fighting in supermarket aisles, we could have the perfect antidote to pre-Apocalypse apathy. I can already picture specially disinfected vans roaming Maple Creek’s deserted streets, the drivers using megaphones to announce this new form of entertainment.
“Roll up, roll up to an exhibition of Purex Ultra-violence … see who can come away with premium 3 ply bathroom tissue paper that provides added comfort, strength and thickness. And remember, citizens … Purex is pure comfort.”
Who wouldn’t be intrigued? I can see us emerging like rabbits from our quarantined holes and streaming to the Co-op – a mass of white protective chemical suits and gas masks.
Perhaps we could watch the Senior Hawks engage in Xtreme TP Kombat, using toilet rolls instead of pucks. Goals would be scored by hitting a roll outside the exit door.
How about it, Len? Just forget about the White Mud Hockey League. Let’s bring on the Supermarket Aisle Hockey League where teams battle for the Coronavirus Championship. It’s bound to catch on, isn’it?
Before I get too carried away – my God, is a fevered imagination an early sign of COVID-19? – I mustn’t lose sight of a question that has been bugging me (pun intended) for weeks: why toilet paper? Why Lord, why?
When major storms or hurricanes barrel down on humanity, we rush out to buy batteries, bottled water and canned food. So what is it about coronavirus and toilet rolls? Why have there been fistfights in Australia, why an armed robbery in Hong Kong, why has a shopkeeper in Japan drawn up traditional curses to ward off toilet paper thieves?
According to my research, psychologists have multiple theories for the run on rolls. One explanation is that the simple act of washing hands doesn’t seem proportionate to the COVID-19 threat, so people need to do more. Another is retail therapy. Another is comfort from hoarding an essential product for which there is no alternative. Another is a longing for control in a crisis whose outcome is so unknown. Another is to avoid being shunned as foul-smelling.
Another is our herd mentality: we see empty shelves on news reports and believe we’re missing out if we don’t get more toilet rolls. I tend to go along with this last one because it comes nearest to explaining my sudden 20/20 toilet paper vision. From enormous distances, I am now capable of spotting a shelf running short of rolls.
I’ve also acquired toilet roll extrasensory perception, which alerts me to imminent shortages. For instance, two days ago I had a bad feeling about our office bathroom supplies. I investigated … and, lo and behold, we were down to two rolls. It triggered a fascinating, largely unprintable, discussion about how humanity would survive in a world without rolls.
Anyway, enough of this tacky talk, enough of this psychobabble and theorizing. I have something far more important to impart.
Very selfishly, since the crisis began I’ve found myself wishing that another form of paper had become a coronavirus beneficiary … the one you are reading right now, the News-Times, and all other newspapers of its ilk around the globe.
Maybe – just maybe – COVID-19 has presented the perfect solution for my ailing industry: make newspapers out of toilet paper. Or at least out of soft, non-inky paper that could double up for that other purpose. Pure comfort should be the twin objective.
Are you listening media moguls? Are you listening Rupert Murdoch? Isn’t this the way out of our own health crisis? Isn’t this the magical vaccine?
Let me be honest: many straight-talking folk around here cheerfully tell me that there is already little distinction between the two forms of paper. So why don’t we go the extra step? One small step for man and all that.
Talking of honesty, here’s another sad confession. When the coronavirus pandemic entered my tightly framed Maple Creek world, I refused to take it seriously, scoffing at the idea of doing a story. I saw endless semi-Apocalyptic images of people in face-masks and protective suits, and prided myself on not being sucked into a fear-filled vortex. It was a psychodrama that would soon become stale and boring. It was fodder for catastrophists, conspiracy theorists and amateur epidemiologists.
In any case, I told myself, I’ve become intimate with a host of viruses since arriving at the News-Times office, so what’s one more? Coughing, hacking, nose-blowing, sniffing, wheezing and sneezing were part of the daily soundscape during my first nine months, competing with train whistle, a whirring furnace and, occasionally, far-off coyotes.
Over the last few days, however, my immunity to the psychodrama has begun to fail. I realized I had to report on what was happening. I could not ignore the slew of postponements and cancellations, the closure of the Town office to the public, the cancellation of hockey and skiing, the suspension of schools. I could not ignore – however much I wanted to – the procession of “experts” telling me that the world should be on a war footing.
So here I am, in full coronavirus acceptance, and it feels a little surreal.
It is as if I’ve started watching the making of a horror movie, whose ending is a mystery. What is its title? Probably COVID-19, since that sounds much scarier than coronavirus, which has squishier, softer syllables that you almost want to bask in or lick. Coronavirus conjures images of a crown or the glow of the sun. It also suggests ice cream, sorbets, sodas and frozen yogurt.
“Come get your Coronavirus Popsicle.”
Perhaps that will be another cry from those disinfected vans interrupting the quiet of Maple Creek’s collective quarantine.
Many movie titles contain a number; somehow it adds authenticity to the plot.
Think about it … Stalag 17, Assault on Precinct 13, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, District 9, Apollo 13, 127 Hours, and 28 Days Later.
The first few scenes of COVID-19 are full of panic buying and empty toilet paper shelves.
It would be a strange twist if it emerged that TP buying was a symptom of the disease.
I have a non-scientific suspicion that the movie ending will be a little anti-climactic. Humanity will just muddle through.