Psst. This just in. There's plenty of toilet paper

Americans persist in picking the shelves clean of TP

At this point we all have to confront the possibility of getting COVID-19. And, chances are, you wouldn’t know how you got it. Or what you could have done to prevent it.

And from here it looks like the outcome is pretty much a crap shoot. Most people will be fine apparently, but some — not just the old and vulnerable — seem to sink quickly and inexorably. The stories of families that never got a chance to say goodbye to their dying loved one are particularly wrenching.

So it is interesting to see where the American people have gone with this. There are wearing masks and gloves, of course, and various attempts at social distancing.

But I’d say there is one item, one reaction, that speaks to how anxious, paranoid and — frankly — self-centered we have become.

Toilet paper.

You’ve probably been to the stores. We went Monday. There was plenty of almost everything. There were bushels of fresh produce, racks of all kinds of meat and plenty of milk and orange juice. Eggs were a little hard to find and I couldn’t help but notice the tray of sea salt caramel gelato only had a couple of cartons left.

But then we turned the corner and there it was. Shelf after shelf, stretching halfway down the aisle, completely empty. There were only the price tags to identify what had been there — toilet paper.

C’mon people. There is no shortage of toilet paper. There’s just as much being produced as there was two months ago when the supply was ample and we grabbed a package without a second thought.

As this Boston Globe story says, there is no flaw in the toilet paper supply chain. There hasn’t been a glitch in toilet paper production. As Harvard Business School professor Willy Shih told The Globe:

“It’s not like all the factories for toilet paper suddenly burned down.”

This is an entirely self-created problem. It is panic buying, creating a stampede of people who are frantic not to be shut out.

Those people are understandably anxious, worried and feeling like their life is out of control. You can see the impulse to want to do something, to avoid hardship.

And so, rather than taking a single package of ten toilet paper rolls, they grab as many as they are allowed. And maybe they leave and return for more. Because they are not going to be caught without TP.

OK. I get that. But you know what this is?

It’s called hoarding.

And it is one of the first, clear signifiers that people are getting that wild-eyed, I’m-going-to-get-mine dynamic. That’s something, once started, that rarely ends well.

There is one bright possibility however. This TP panic was a groundswell. It started with a few panicky shoppers and spread to others.

So maybe it will fizzle out the same way. A few people will scoff at toilet paper shortages and others will notice and maybe wonder what they were so upset about.

We’ve all got lots of concerns now. I am so stressed that all I have to do is think of my family and I get emotional. We’re all have very real problems we need to confront.

But c’mon, not toilet paper. We are not going to run out. There may be days when none is available until it is restocked. But yesterday I bought a package of 12 rolls with no problem.

As I checked out the cashier said the toilet paper panic had been crazy. He suggested we take the long view.

“You know human beings got along for hundreds of years without toilet paper.”

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You know what we could use right now? The Olympic Games.

Last week the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee finally, finally announced that they were going to postpone the Summer Olympics until next summer.

And you have to give the IOC and Olympic organizers credit — they aren’t easily swayed. Which is another way of saying they were so bull-headed and stubborn that they seemed willing to walk right off the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic cliff and go ahead and hold The Games.

Last month a spokesman blustered that “We made a decision. The decision was The Games go ahead.”

It was only when countries — Canada among them — simply announced that they weren’t coming that the organizers agreed to postpone. Which was definitely the right choice.

But as I said in my Santa Rosa Press Democrat Sunday column, it is also kind of a shame. World’s fairs seemed to have died out. The United Nations is a political snake pit.

The Olympics are now the last remaining event that can simultaneously capture the attention of the entire globe. Isn’t ironic that at a time when we need something like the Olympics to pull us together, we are caught in a medical crisis that forces us to be apart?

Hey, let’s don’t kid ourselves, everyone is looking for something to read now. So I think the bar is low enough that somebody you know might want to read this. Think so? Just click the button to pass it.

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Gov. Newsom is having a moment

Times sometimes find people. And this incredibly uncertain time of coronavirus creates an opening for the kind of politician who is eager and happy to talk on his feet, has an encyclopedic command of the facts, and — by the way — is younger than 70.

Newsom’s televised daily briefing is not just a made-for-TV event. It is made-for-Newsom. This kind of problem-solving, podium-framing setting is right in Newsom’s wheelhouse.

And, in a fraught time nationally, Newsom has become the West Coast version of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It is pretty obvious that CNN and MSNBC are running Cuomo’s folksy, hard-truth daily briefing as a counterpoint to President Trump’s.

And Newsom is getting some of the same traction. Here he is on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

Newsom just sounds like a guy who knows what he’s talking about. He just has to remember, at some point, to stop talking about it.

But I continue to say that his marriage and his children have softened his image. As fellow Chronicle alum Carla Marinucci said recently, he’s at his best when he uses personal stories about his family to make a point.

On the other hand, he’s still the guy we got to know as San Francisco Mayor, who loves his data points. It made me smile to read this anecdote in the Chronicle. Asked how many people had been hospitalized in the state, “Newsom responded without glancing at notes, ‘1,432.’”

Yep. That’s our guy.

Thanks for reading. There have been some problems with emails reaching me through this site, so use cwnevius@gmail.com to contact me. Suggestions and compliments welcome. Criticism, not so much. Twitter: @cwnevius