The year things didn't go to plan
#2020 I shall not forget you!
When it comes to toilet paper, I live to excess. I spin that roll like it’s The Wheel of Fortune, with paper flying up in a mad frenzy for the catch, tear and scrunch process. It’s genetic - on my mum’s side. At the height of her usage she was on one roll per visitation. Retirement has settled this somewhat.
I’d been shamelessly living the three-ply high life since I commenced independent trips to the bathroom.
That was until one cool March Monday night in 2020.
I had just taught a dance fitness class at my local gym and was on repeat play, incessantly harassing one of my besties for feedback about my every move.
Teaching back when social distancing wasn't a thing
Ps - Click here to start dancing with me today.
‘Did you catch my jazz hands in track four?’
‘Um, yes, I think so.’
‘How about my reverse body-roll, moonwalk and step-ball-change in track ten?’
I continued to seek answers to these super important questions, as we power-walked and talked our way down Glenferrie Road, in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. On arrival at our destination - Coles supermarket - we casually, barefaced and hand sanitiser free, moseyed on in.
Our combined official grocery list read:
My secret and unofficial list read:
Wizz Fizz and
Devilled ham spread- okay, I know, it’s a bit weird, but it’s my thing.
Childhood processed meat memories
Our mutual post workout hunger had us divide and conquer. I rushed to fruit and veg, and my bestie to haberdashery – okay, so she didn’t exactly go to haberdashery, but I really love that word and don’t find nearly enough cause to use it.
Fifth floor - Haberdashery
I strolled the aisles, nonchalantly walking within centimetres of fellow shoppers. I physically inspected multiple produce items with my bare hands. I most likely touched my face.
Moments later we met up in the toilet paper aisle.
If there was a physical full stop – we embodied it.
For there we stood, staring at three, 35 meter shelves of emptiness.
Where for art tho?
What was going on? Had toilet paper production been halted for some mysterious reason? Was there a bad case of the runs? A red spot special?
Bestie managed to grab one of the last remaining rolls of quadruple recycled one ply. At the time I found this an extreme response. What even is the point of one ply when you have to use just as much as two ply - to achieve your goal? Surely things aren’t that bad?
As we now know, things were that bad, and would get much worse. Life all over the world was about to change forever.
It was the last time I would enter a supermarket without giving a serious case of side eye.
It was the last time my bestie would leave her home without screaming, ‘One point five people!’ to any random who came within a five-meter radius.
It was the last time, I would teach in a gym for 2020.
The next evening, having been spurred on by my tales from the supermarket, my husband arrived home with a carload of toilet paper. A grand total of 244 rolls.
‘If we are going to get this bug, it will be with a clean arse!’ he said.
The kids and I thought it was hysterical. I took a picture of my youngest, dwarfed by a high rise of toilet paper.
I shared it on socials because, like a tree falling in the forest – witnesses are required. And I genuinely thought it was funny.
In my 12 years on Facebook it was my most commented on post.
‘That’s where it’s all gone.’
‘Can you spare a square?’
‘Suzie, you really need to calm down, toilet paper is made in Australia, we won’t run out.’
It turned out, as much as Aussies like a joke, they like their toilet paper more.
What had I done?
Oh dear - things were not going to plan
I had been blinded by toilet humour.
My head was filled with visions of sweet elderly ladies unsuccessfully heading to do their weekly shop, only to end up grasping at straws – literally, grasping at straws.
I had to make amends.
I started giving rolls away. No questions asked.
I overshared toilet paper memes hoping the whole, ‘Suzie was joking vibe,’ would subtly, perhaps not so subtly, catch on.
One of my favs
I even visited random supermarkets and shook my head at vacant shelves, in solidarity with my fellow shoppers.
However, as guilty as I felt about the red raw bottoms developing all over Melbourne, as I indulged in as much three ply a single flush could handle, one person kept coming to mind. My favourite comedian – Joan Rivers. Joan was often quoted as saying - when it comes to comedy, no topic is off limits. Joan joked about everything, even traditionally taboo topics such as death of a loved one.
I always loved this philosophy and wholeheartedly embrace it. As the saying goes – laughter is the best medicine.
Don't mess with Joan
For example, one of my girlfriends and I have this thing where when we tell each other bad news, and I mean sometimes really bad news, we cannot stop laughing. We could be telling each other the most horrific story – think car accident involving multiple limbs flying everywhere - and we are in complete hysterics, tears pouring and barely able to breathe.
It’s not that each of us doesn’t care or lacks sensitivity. This particular girlfriend will probably be sainted, she is that lovely. We just can’t help ourselves. The moment I start thinking about the gravity of whatever story she is sharing, is the very moment my lips start to curl upward.
Now, this may not be the most socially appropriate response and is probably bordering on weird, but it works for us and in that moment provides some respite.
Like with most minor controversies, it wasn’t long before the toilet paper drama passed and the Aussie ‘fair go’ spirit prevailed. The hoarders, and us social media show-pony faux hoarders, were faced with purchasing restrictions. The sacred world of the lavatory was restored.
I’m the first to admit, I definitely went too hard, too soon, on the toilet paper humour. However, looking back on 2020 it was the jokes, the video spoofs and ingenious comedy from people from all over the world, that helped get us through. It provided an opportunity to be momentarily distracted from the horror of pandemic life, and laugh at ourselves.
Love this one
For me, that March Monday night, shopping in Coles, with the bare shelves and my failed joke, will always mark the beginning of Covid. Most likely because this is when I directly felt its impact, and realised the life I planned for 2020 would no longer be.
Something unexpectedly different was on its way for this 40something.