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Community Voices (Gregory): As movie horrors come to life, it isn’t really about the toilet paper

It’s not really about the toilet paper.

I have come to this conclusion after watching a disturbing video of three women coming to blows over rolls of toilet paper. And in doing so no doubt exposing themselves to the virus if carried by any of them through their close proximity as they yelled into each other’s faces and came to blows.

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That encounter was very disturbing to me. And it got me thinking. It really isn’t about the toilet paper. The toilet paper represents something far more disturbing in our collective psyche right now. We have seen our own movie horrors come to life.

As one person commented the other day, “Isn’t this how all the apocalyptic movies start out? With runs on food and supplies and a panicked public. Are we going to live a real nightmare?”

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When 9/11 happened, I remember reading an editorial that talked about that event, so unthankful prior to that September day, and how it was the thing of action movies. But then it happened for real. And no hero came. There was no Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger to save the day.

I also remember during that time that so many people were lining up to give blood. Unfortunately, there was no one to give it to. There were no victims needing blood. They had had been incinerated. Yet the people still lined up.

People felt helpless. They wanted to help. They wanted to do something.

So, with the coronavirus or COVID-19 people are hoarding toilet paper. Again, much like 9/11 we are facing the unknown and the prospect of our day to day lives never being the same — whether in a miniscule or major way. But we will be impacted, no doubt.

We are left to wonder what the world will look like after the dust has settled. What is it even going to look like tomorrow? Who will get it? How long will it last? Will we even be able to be tested for it?

It is the unknown. And so, we grab onto what we can. We buy too much toilet paper. Because we feel helpless and out of control.

We may not be able to protect our friends and loved ones from catching this virus. But we will have plenty of toilet paper on hand if this “plague” does arrive, and we are confined to our homes. We are keeping ourselves busy. We are doing something even if we don’t know what that something should be.

Humans are wired for survival. And to prepare for that survival. Not so easy in this case. The enemy is a microscopic bad guy. Not one we can confront face to face. We don’t know where this bad guy is lurking and what damage he can do to our bodies, our families, our lives. We feel vulnerable. Afraid. Out of control.

So, we buy toilet paper.

We are building a fortress of Charmin. Because, let’s face it, with the exception of washing our hands and removing ourselves from those impacted by the virus, what else can we do? Not a whole lot right now. At least not until we learn more about this virus and how to fight it. That could be a long wait. We just don’t know.

And while we wait to see what happens next, we so desperately need to do something right now.

So, we buy too much toilet paper. And hope for the best.

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Lisa Gregory writes from Taneytown.

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