The Happiness Connection  

Toilet paper philosophy

The last time I went to Costco was the first day of their social-distancing initiatives.

They were only letting a limited number of people in at one time.

I was there early, hoping I could nip in and out in record time. A lot of people had the same idea because the queue that snaked through the loading bay reminded me of Disneyland, minus the smiles and entertainers.

When I got into the building, I laughed to see an employee holding a sign with the words Toilet Paper on it and an arrow. It directed shoppers to a different location than this item is usually found.

I have been mystified about the toilet paper hoarding since I first heard about it.

Why toilet paper? COVID-19 doesn’t have stomach flu symptoms; it is respiratory, like influenza. Anyone suffering from it is unlikely to need more rolls than usual.

People have been advised to have enough supplies to last a quarantine of two weeks. I don’t know about you, but I don’t go through multiple rolls a day.

I’ve heard a few different versions of how this run on loo rolls got started, so I decided to turn to Ms. Google and see what I could uncover.

Did you know this isn’t the first time a crisis has led to the same mass buying of toilet paper?

During the oil crisis of 1973, an American congressman warned about a disruption to the toilet paper supply chain. Late night TV host Johnny Carson shared this undoubtedly hoping for a laugh from the nation.

Instead, he got hysteria.

Despite being assured that there was no shortage, and that the supply chain was fine, people ran out to stock up. This phenomenon lasted for four months.

Control and fear are two of the major issues when a frenzy to buy something such as toilet paper surfaces.

Autonomy, or the desire for perceived control over your life, is one of the basic needs of all humans.

If you feel you are powerless, life is bleak.

COVID-19 is causing many people to feel helpless. Buying toilet paper is something they can do. It may not be the most useful thing, but it is an opportunity to take some level of control during this unsettling time.

The crisis is also ramping up fear. Fear is contagious.

If the strangers in front of you are piling toilet paper into their shopping cart, you are likely to start doing the same. You may recognize you don’t have any reason to copy them, but then they may know something you don’t.

This is the reaction that fosters FOMO — fear of missing out. It is the herd mentality. Witnessing the actions of others, combined with news reports and social media posts, will have you following suit.

Even though I know I have enough loo rolls to last me many months, I decided to follow the stream of Costco shopping carts. I wanted to fully experience this phenomenon.

I passed the major appliances and then saw what can only be described as a toilet paper attendant.

An employee was standing by stacks of two different brands, guarding it carefully. You were only allowed one and were asked not to pick it up yourself. He loaded it for you.

Even though I didn’t need more, I found myself voicing my brand preference and having it added to my cart.

I tell myself that I wanted to experience, not just observe, what was happening. That may be true, or perhaps I am fooling myself. I don’t think it matters. There isn’t a shortage, so my actions won’t deprive others and I will eventually use it.

According to one online toilet-paper calculator, I can be quarantined for 2 1/2 years without concern about running out. One fewer worry can’t be a bad thing.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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