My husband and I typically buy toilet paper at Costco. Their store brand is nice and we don’t have to buy it all that often since there’s just the two of us. But we haven’t been able to do that lately.

We could have joined the people who jumped on the toilet paper hoarding early, but that would have meant going to the store at a time other than when we typically do. We decided not to change our habits and deal with it if we ran out of toilet paper. Luckily, we still had about a third of a Costco package, so we had no real need.

But as the weeks went by, our supply ran lower, and still Costco and Winco had empty shelves. We ended up buying some emergency rolls from a farmstand that was selling them at a dollar a roll. Fairly low quality, but it would certainly work if the need should arise.

And it was a good thing that we did that, because we did run out of toilet paper. Well, sort of. See, as backpackers, we have a habit of tearing up toilet paper rolls into smaller sections so that we can take less of it on a trip than a whole roll. Oh, and we tear the cardboard tubes out as well, because that’s really just weight out there (not a lot of weight, but still ;). When the toilet paper that still had its tubes was out, we moved onto the emergency rolls that we’d purchased. But we could have dug out all the backpacking half and quarter rolls languishing in the car and apartment.

Winco started to have some toilet paper supplies during our visits in early May, though the selection was not huge. And by mid-May the selection was wider. But we still haven’t managed to catch toilet paper at Costco, although we came close on one trip, spying a package in someone’s cart. We usually do a stroll through Costco in a very specific order, but after Ambrose saw that toilet paper, we raced directly to the back to see if there were any left.

Alas, the only toilet paper packages to be seen were the gigantic industrial rolls, which I certainly do not wish to use in my home, thank you very much.

I don’t think I’ve ever thought so much about toilet paper in my life. It’s one of those things that was taken completely for granted. Not only that toilet paper would always be there, but that we would always need and use toilet paper. Even though there are places in the world where toilet paper isn’t used or is used differently, the thought of change doesn’t come up when the system trundles along without calling attention to its faults.

We might have to change our habits if we want to buy Costco toilet paper anytime soon. Show up at a different time, on a different day… That we don’t is a way of trying to maintain a sense of normalcy. Like maybe when we can get that toilet paper on the same day, at the same time as we usually did, then things would feel normal again.

Even if the feeling’s just a thin tissue of illusion.

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