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Why is everyone buying toilet paper?

Can you tell me why the coronavirus scare has set people into panic-buying of toilet paper? Recently at Costco I was told that a limit had to be set on how many jumbo packs of 36 rolls could be purchased. Everyone had their carts piled up with tissue. I understand that diarrhea can be a side effect, but really, toilet paper?

— Grant, Medford

Let us begin with a tale of a rafting trip on the Colorado River many, many years ago.

As you may know, Grant, it can take years to book a rafting trip down this popular river, and it’s well worth the wait.

On this particular excursion, we’ve been told, there was a great deal of excitement on the first day out.

But the next morning, the 20 or so people on the rafting trip were looking forward to a nice cup of coffee to start their day.

Unfortunately, the tour group forgot to pack coffee, and then it was discovered they’d forgotten to pack toilet paper, resulting in an almost panicked reaction.

That lesson taught us how important toilet paper is for a civilized society, but we won’t linger on how coffee and toilet paper play a strangely symbiotic role in our morning routine.

As a result, when a crisis appears on the horizon, people are looking for those important reminders of how civilized they are and are looking for ways to take control of a situation, and toilet paper is never at the bottom of that list.

Diarrhea, which is obviously a messy problem to have, isn’t the reason why toilet paper is such a necessity and results in panic buying, though it would be rather troublesome if you didn’t have it.

There are other reasons why people want toilet paper, but in the interests of modesty, let’s say it’s useful for a number of bodily functions, and the horror of going without is apparently too much for many to bear.

So don’t run around thinking your fellow shoppers are reaching for rolls because of a diarrhea problem.

Instead, they’re undergoing psychological stress from the coronavirus, and they want to take some control over an uncontrollable situation.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.