Before there was Charmin …

Published 10:29 am Monday, March 23, 2020

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My shopping buggy was rammed off its wheels by a lady with a buggy filled with enough toilet paper to wrap Toomer’s Corner into the next century.

“Toilet paper will be the first thing we run out of – this virus thing you know,” she said.

I scanned her buggy for Pepto Bismol and hoop cheese. None. Exactly what virus was she expecting?

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“Get it while you can. You might can get meat and taters later but you won’t get toilet paper,” she said. “Mark my word.”

Toilet paper. A hot commodity?  Corn meal and salt maybe. But toilet paper?

Since the beginning of time, man – and woman – has had need of toilet paper.

When I was growing up, we were fortunate to have a bathroom clinging  to our house and toilet paper on a roll. Toilet paper would never have been a thought for me except Aunt Byrd and Uncle John had an outhouse. In my child’s mind, that old lisping, wood structure eclipsed even a king’s castle.

When we went to visit our relatives, Mama, who was very pa’ticlar, would first stop at the filling station for us to visit the indoor bathroom. Then, the last words out of her before we got out of the car at our relatives were “don’t go near that outhouse.”

There was something magical about that outhouse. On the outside was what Uncle John called a “johnny pick” stuck in a crack in the wall. It had a candle on it. When he had to visit the outhouse at night, Uncle John said he lit the candle, took the johnny pick inside and stuck it in a crack in the wall. That way he could see inside the outhouse.

An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Mine was always idle. So, on one visit, I deviled into the outhouse and tried it out, corncobs and all. That was the first time in my life that I gave thought to toilet paper.

Now, with the coronavirus front page news, it seems the thoughts of the entire population of the United States, all 327 million, are consumed with toilet paper.

Especially, the lady at the Pig who is probably responsible for the toilet paper shortage.

Friday morning, I went early to the grocery store hoping for a loaf of bread or a morsel of meat.

Coming out was the “toilet paper lady.”

“Did you get toilet paper?”

I assured her that I did. “Five rolls.”

“Oh, my! That won’t get you through. Honey, you need all you can get.”

I didn’t bother to say that was “all” I could get.

“But, you work for the newspaper. I grew up using newspaper … and corncobs.” We laughed. We understood each other.

“But you know what I heard on TV. That magnolia leaves make good substitutes for toilet paper,” she said. “You’ve got that big magnolia tree. You’ll be all right, but if you get in a tight, I might have a roll or two you could get.”

I started thinking. Actually, I have two big magnolia trees. If worse comes to worse. … anybody that would like to rake the leaves, could have them for free. The ones they pluck off the tree … I’d say about $2 a Piggly Wiggly bag.

On down the road and with retirement looming large, with all those magnolia leaves, I could start my own natural toilet paper company, “Magnolia.” I already have the slogan, “MAGNOLIA leaves nothing behind!”