I had a lovely shopping experience this evening. I say that without a shred of irony permeating the sentence. It was 7 in the evening and I cycled off to the local supermarket, in search of a carton of eggs. I had certainly given up on toilet paper and earlier in the day, the kitchen roll and paper tissue shelves had been ominously empty. Not a tomato anything in sight either.
I felt a brooding sense of anger, towards anyone who had bought anything more than a packet of toilet paper (let’s say with 6-8 rolls in it), 6 cans of plumb tomatoes (maximum) and 3-4 packets of some form of pasta. All those shelves were bereft of product and looked miserable. They were crying out to be re-stocked and feel the non-hysterical touch of calm, normal shoppers’ hands.
So with these thoughts and emotions flying around, I entered the now dreaded supermarket hoping against hope I would land 10 eggs and perhaps some of the crispy white chocolate I currently like eating (that was absent earlier too).
The atmosphere was surprisingly relaxed. It seems the panic shoppers had done their thing and I was in the company of another type of shopper. We gazed around the numerous empty vistas of selves in wonder. The expectations of finding what we were looking for were non-existent, making every discovery a little miracle. I found a carton of eggs. It was one of 6 remaining and I only needed the one. I found some butter and then got to thinking ‘hey Dean – let’s take a look at paper corner’. As I turned an aisle there it was! A whole skip of kitchen roll. Earlier that space had been bare. Over on the other side the shelves with tissue paper could also not boast or bemoan an empty state. Obviously, no toilet paper but in its place a printed-out notice from the supermarket. I didn’t read it then and there but instead took a quick photo to read later.
Filled with a sense of surprise and peace, I made my way to the check-out. I had come for eggs and was leaving with a packet of spaghetti, some butter, eggs; kitchen-roll and paper-tissues. This was a remarkably successful shopping expedition. Little did I know it was to become even more rewarding. For the record, when I left home, we had 5 full, mint rolls of toilet paper and 2 on their toilet paper holders in use. No imminent emergency yet another packet of 6-8 rolls would be comforting. It wasn’t obsessing me but the fact that people had panic bought that particular article had occupied my thoughts. Whoever they were they were shitty people for only thinking of their own bowel movements.
Loading my wares onto the cash-out conveyor thing, the cashier asked me if I needed toilet paper. At first, I didn’t understand the question and told her the shelves were empty. She asked me again if I wanted / needed toilet paper and something inside of me automatically spluttered out an affirmative. She shouted to the back of the store and a colleague threw a pristine packet of toilet paper in her direction, which she expertly caught. I was about to leave the supermarket with a packet of 8 rolls of toilet paper (the current Grail); albeit with only 3 layers (I prefer at least 5) but now I was floating in a comfort zone of pleasant surprise and satisfaction. Cycling home my mind was warm and soft with the prospect of a cheese omelet, freshly made fried potatoes and a salad (that Cornelia was preparing). And in my rucksack a packet of 8 rolls of toilet paper were ready for action in the days and weeks ahead. I have made it a point to keep a record of how much toilet paper we collectively use. I know I use the most. Now I’ll know just how much I use. It is this becoming more aware of things one takes for granted, much of the time, that is part of this current phenomenon. It’s good to reflect on as much as possible in terms of consumption, real needs and apparent ones.