If we've learned anything this week, it is this: As a society overall, we really aren't very prepared to handle a major crisis. Don't get me wrong, there have been many people acting responsibly over the last few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been outstanding stories of noble human behavior and compassionate kindness (more on that tomorrow). But there are also people with 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizerstuffed into their garage.
With that last example I realize that, for the purposes of this article, I am probably lumping greed and ignorance into the definition of idiocy. I think the term adequately covers negative behaviors and overreactions that we are seeing.
Someone, after all, had to make the conscious decision that to fight this respiratory illness, they needed a bazillion rolls of toilet paper. Many others, seeing that person haul a truckload of TP out of their local Costco, followed suit. Most of the hoarders that came late to the toilet paper race are simply now worried there won't be any there when they need some, so the run on the supply continues unabated. At some point we will recognize that diarrhea is not a symptom of Coronavirus, and the panic will abate. Either that or we will run out of trees. One way or another, we will at some point stop the toilet paper lunacy.
As of this writing, my house has a total of 6 rolls of toilet paper in stock. I like living life on the edge. Nevertheless, I am going to search the cleaning lady's oversized purse before she leaves today. I may like a challenge, but I'm not stupid.
In Oregon, police have taken to social media to ask the public to stop calling 911 when they run out of toilet paper. The Newport Police Department posted a message on its Facebook page that said, “It's hard to believe that we even have to post this. Do not call 9-1-1 just because you ran out of toilet paper. You will survive without our assistance.” They also offered helpful advice, by adding, “There are always alternatives to toilet paper. Grocery receipts, newspaper, cloth rags, lace, cotton balls, and that empty toilet paper roll sitting on the holder right now. Plus, there are a variety of leaves you can safely use. Mother Earth News magazine will tell you how to make your own wipes using fifteen different leaves. When all else fails, you have magazine pages. Start saving those catalogs you get in the mail that you usually toss into the recycle bin. be resourceful. Be patient. There is a TP shortage. This too shall pass. Just don't call 9-1-1. We cannot bring you toilet paper.”
Makes me wish I was a plumber. That is the next group to score gold when all those magazine pages go down the commode.
There are areas where the ignorance around the virus is simply frightening. Many will find the news report below, from a Tennessee news station humorous. In actuality it is pretty sad:
Fear and ignorance can go a long way in an unexpected event like the Coronavirus scare. In Italy, a man was recently seen in a public market wearing a “Social Distancing Doughnut.”
I really don't know what to say about that. Except that the improvised protective device will only make it difficult to use the bathroom, thereby compounding his toilet paper shortage related issues.
And of course, if we are talking about idiocy, we would be remiss if we didn't point out all the energy being spent in the media and political world arguing over whether this is the Wuhan Virus, the China Virus or simply the “Virus of Non-Specific Geographic Origin That May Have Originated in China but is not Necessarily Chinese.” No one wants a potentially racist pandemic. We prefer to be wiped out by a color (and race) blind viral threat.
Overall, as a society we really don't ask for much. We just want to stay safe and healthy, and we want the value in our 401k's returned to us. Eventually that will happen, but we will unfortunately face a great deal of superfluous panic and misguided reactions on the path back to normalcy.
I think most of us could agree that this entire ordeal would be easier without the idiocy.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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