Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Toilet Paper Panic of '79

1979.  Gas shortages.  And rumors of other kinds of shortages gripped the nation.  Well, maybe “gripped” is the wrong word; maybe “gave rise to reasonable concerns” is closer to the truth.  In short, we were nervous.

Humiliated in public

One night during this “nervous” period, I shopped prudently at a large grocery store.  Among my purchases was a case of toilet paper.  While at the cashier’s station, the woman behind me spoke rudely to the teenager behind her, and she made a snide remark to me. “Hey Poopy Pants with the lifetime supply of TP, get a move on.  Ha! Ha! Ha!” 

My measured response

This inspired my dark side, and you’ll have to forgive me for my devilish comeback.  I picked up the case of toilet paper, hugged it, and laid it on the cashier’s conveyor belt; then turning to the woman with feigned innocence, I whispered confidentially, “Did you hear about the toilet paper shortage?”  

Mischief, thou art afoot! 

Her eyes widened and she jerked her cart out of line and trucked towards the toilet paper aisle muttering, “Toilet paper.”  Others got the idea, and the panic was on.  A glance backwards revealed several shopping carts clearly exceeding the speed limit in a race to the toilet paper aisle. I wasn’t counting on this reaction, so I skedaddled out of there.

Once outside, I peered through the window.  The toilet paper aisle was now jammed with carts, and the rude woman wrestled the teenager over a case of Charmin Ultra Soft.  I smiled with perverse delight. 

There is a moral to this story, my friends.  People panic easily, so it is a good idea to have a supply of food and supplies on hand before shortages or an emergency occur.  Keep living!


  1. Ah, Dave. I too am old enough to remember the halcyon days of the Jimmy Carter Presidency.

    I applaud your spontaneous originality. How often we think of those rejoinders five minutes later, or more? I heard a similar tale from those days of yore, which may be urban legend. Or not. But so what?

    A national TP shortage began after Johnny Carson listed a number of shortages in his monologue. He then wise-cracked, "And now do you know what we have? A toilet paper shortage!" And sure enough--supermarket shelves were immediately stripped clean.

    The truth, as I heard it, is as follows: At a military base, somewhere, a procurement officer circulated a memo stating that their delivery of bathroom supplies was late, and to use such material sparingly, especially toilet paper. This was relayed, and as it passed orally, it became a "shortage," and then...a national crisis! And with Johnny Carson as megaphone, well...

    Something to think about when we "relay" some "information" about somebody else. There's a word for it. "Gossip."

  2. Randy, thanks for the comment. You brought out a second point that I didn't think of--be careful what you say, especially about other people (or as I like to say regarding emails--proofread before you click). Of course, the other point is to be prepared and optimistic.

  3. Don't worry about any toilet paper shortage by getting a Hand Bidet Sprayer. Cleaning with water is 10X better than smearing with wads of toilet paper and you never run out. Saves allot of money too. See