TP: The gift that says you’re loved

Former resident tells of TP shortage even Down Under

Today a package from my mom and dad arrived on my doorstep. Inside I found two boxes of facial tissues, several bottles of hand sanitizers and eight rolls of toilet paper.

Mom had mailed it to me three weeks ago after I called my parents when I was slightly freaking out. I had just gone to Costco to get new eyeglasses and to get a list of other household goods — innocuous things like body wash and toilet paper.

Only there wasn’t any toilet paper.

Odd, I thought.

After Costco we went to the grocery store to continue our shopping for the week. As we cruised through the busy parking lot, we witnessed a woman carrying six packs of toilet paper. These were the kind of large packs that were made with plastic straps on the outside so that it made it easier to hold. She had them looped around her arms as if they were fashionable bracelets.

As she walked, a different woman began angrily yelling at her as they crossed paths. I couldn’t quite hear it all, but I could discern it was about all that toilet paper.

When I was faced with barren shelves inside the grocery store where the toilet paper was supposed to be, I felt a little like yelling too. 

Three weeks ago, Australians watched with horror as the coronavirus spread through China, and then beyond. Three weeks ago, Australians began panic-buying toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, rice, pasta and meat. 

My mom friends were lining up outside our local grocery store at 6 a.m., before it opened, in hopes of being one of the lucky first few to snag toilet paper. However, once the doors opened, the orderly lines turned into stampedes like those on Black Friday at Best Buy.

Fistfights broke out over toilet paper.

A grocery store employee was stabbed over toilet paper, or the lack thereof.

I wanted no part of that. So I called my mom and dad and begged them to mail me some TP. 

And they did. If that didn’t say, “I love you,” I wasn’t sure what did. 

Also inside the box were copies of the newspaper when my last article ran — my article about how we shouldn’t fear the coronavirus because there wasn’t much we could do to control that situation. If we all got our flu shots, we did have control over not getting the flu.

Well, now I believe there actually is something we can do to help control the spread of the coronavirus: stay home.

That’s it. It’s very simple. Practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently and stay home.

Together, just like how we can all form a herd immunity if we all get our flu shots, we can all “flatten the curve” and slow down (and hopefully maybe stop) the spread of the disease if we simply stay home.

Take this time to slow down and enjoy time with your loved ones. If you live alone, take this time to shamelessly watch everything on Netflix. And after that, download the Kindle app and read just as many books.

Use social media as a tool for good and reach out to your loved ones. During the last three weeks, I have received countless messages and video chats from family and friends. Some of these friends I haven’t spoken to in years — but they all are reaching out to see how I am doing and what the pandemic is like in Australia.

My close friends here in Australia have all texted me asking how my toilet paper and hand soap supplies are going, and if I need anything that they can provide.

The pandemic in Australia is slow going, as is our government to act. They closed school for this week — but as someone who has battled with lung issues ever since I was born prematurely, I have chosen to keep my kids at home since last week. Our country wasn’t taking the speed of the virus very seriously when the infection rates were in the double digits, but now that we’ve reached over 2,000 cases, they are finally closing down nonessential activities.

They haven’t quite asked people to stay home yet, but I’m doing that all on my own volition. You couldn’t pay me to go outside and interact with people at this moment.

I have, however, had some wonderful interactions with people over the phone. And when we ask “how are you?” we are truly asking — we are truly worried for one another. 

There’s nothing like a world crisis for mankind to finally and truly care about mankind. 

When I asked the ophthalmologist over the phone how he was — I rang Costco today to see if my husband could pick up my new glasses instead of me, since I am self-isolating, but my husband is still out and about due to work — the ophthalmologist told me how stressed he was. But he was happy the store was relatively quiet after several days of unprecedented busyness.

I find this raw honesty, and this newness where we are all vulnerable and now seemingly more open to being honest and able to connect as one human to another (who are both/all experiencing something the world has never experienced before) to be one of the most important and powerful silver linings to this horrible, scary, surreal and dark time. 

I can only hope that after this storm has passed that we all continue to truly care for one another as we are right now. 

Because I’ve never felt more loved than I do right now opening a package of toilet paper from my parents.

Andra LK Guccione is a former Jefferson resident who lives in Australia. Her parents, Milan and Deb Kucerak, reside in Jefferson.

Since this was written, Australia has reported more than 6,350 total cases of COVID-19.

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