First came toilet paper and paper towels. We hoarded them, for no good reason other than the fear of not having it six months down the road. There was no toilet paper shortage, paper towels either the experts told us, but still some of you (not me) built up a healthy supply, I guess because cleanliness is next to Godliness my grandma used to tell me.
We laughed about it. Made jokes and memes about it. Some people fist-fought for toilet paper in store aisles, and more often than not someone was there with a cell phone to video it and place it on social media. I wonder how those TP hoarders felt when their fights went viral, and they looked like idiots.
Oh well. I can honestly tell you that when the hoarders stripped the shelves of Charmin and Quilted Northern first, then the cheap no-frills stuff, I stood my ground. The wife and I checked our supply and figured we had about a month and a half’s worth of toilet paper in the big shelf in the bathroom and another couple weeks’ worth scattered around the house in bathrooms, half baths and cabinets. No fear in our house.
So, I refused to give in to the frenzy. In fact, it was the opposite. I refused to buy any toilet paper even when we got down to a supply of a month or so to go. I know most of the checkers at the stores where we shop, and I didn’t want them to give me that you-are-a-hoarder look. Besides, I own a newspaper, and no way I’d ever run out of newsprint, an acceptable substitute for Charmin in a pinch.
When I finally broke down and bought a 12-pack of the cheap stuff because they didn’t have our brand on the shelves, I explained to my favorite checker at length I was not a hoarder, put this off as long and I could, and we really needed to replenish our supply.
Now comes coins.
I feel the same way about the coin shortage as I did the toilet paper shortage. There is no supply problem, just a hoarding problem. Despite experts saying the contrary, some people early on were convinced the coins and paper money they carry around in their pockets are COVID-19 infested. So, in the mind of a hoarder, you just stick it in a drawer or big jar, use your debit card and wait until the coast is clear. When enough hoarders do that, a second line of hoarders hears about it and starts hoarding because somebody else is hoarding. Thus, we have a shortage, even though the Federal Reserve says there is about $48 billion in coinage alone in circulation. The key word is circulation, which isn’t happening.
The term dirty money has been around a long time, and experts have always told us it is contaminated with all types of microbes, bacteria and yes, viruses. But you can take your change from the cashier, just don’t touch your eyes or your mouth afterward.
The truth is, coins and cash were not being circulated as much because of the slowdown in the economy. If you aren’t spending money, the money stays in your pocket. When that happened, banks and businesses started talking about coin shortages. Then, like they did with the toilet paper crisis, the hoarders took a little problem and made it a big problem. The same folks who were fearful of wiping with newsprint are now fearful they won’t have eight quarters for the car wash six months from now.
To compound things, now you have the conspiracy theorists on social media claiming it’s all part of a master government plan to go to a cashless society so The Tax Man can track every dollar you make and spend. No more cutting firewood for cash to avoid The Tax Man. No more paying the neighborhood kid $10 to shovel snow off your driveway. Instead of a $1 bill from the tooth fairy under junior’s pillow, he’ll find a receipt for a $1 electronic deposit into his bank account.
Anyway, after reading this you might realize how sick I am of not only hoarding, but this thing people like to call the “new normal.” I pray none of this will be normal for long.
A woman from out of state contacted the newspaper the other day and cancelled her subscription because “all you have is coverage of this COVID virus.” I wrote her a check and a nice note and sent it via the U.S Postal Service, explaining that we try really hard to do stories that are not virus-related, but no matter where we turn – from toilet paper to our penny collection – we are tormented daily by COVID-19 and its impact.
I am getting tired of all this, too, and the next time there is a shortage, we will try not to tell you about it.