The End is Near


On our final visit to Costco, on March 13th, prior to entering our period of seclusion, we arrived before the posted opening time to find the parking lot full and the store packed. It was quite a surprise. We made our way through the crowds towards the toilet paper. As we neared, the crowds got thicker and a sense of panic drifted through the air. By the time we reached our target, no roll remained.

A few days later, my brother-in-law called to tell us there was toilet paper in stock and said he would buy us a package. He noted that the commodity was protected by security guards. It made me wonder about our relationship with this stuff and how in times of angst many feel a need to stockpile. How could we have survived the millennia without it? After all it is only a recent adoption.  

Around 1867, brothers Edward, Clarence, and Thomas Scott, started making and selling toilet paper, but it was only adopted by the masses in the 1900s around the same time the indoor toilet became common. Prior to paper, other instruments were used. In the 16th century, Francois Rabelais recommended using the neck of a goose. Poor people might defecate in rivers and clean off with water and rags, wood shavings, leaves, sand, moss, or what ever was at hand. Inuit might use snow. Seaman might use old frayed anchor cables. In colonial America, corncobs might be used. Others might use old newspapers and catalogues. Around 1391, during the Song Dynasty, a Chinese emperor decreed that large 2-foot-by-3-foot paper sheets must be made for his toilet time. Until then, people in China just used random paper products. Ancient Romans used a sponge and the Greeks used stones and pieces of clay.

Many alternatives to that little piece of paper.


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