Vexations and Conundrums – July 2022

Politics, Religion, Toilet Tissue

Visits to my mother in Louisiana are full of surprises. Two of my sisters take turns staying with her, and both are colorful personalities. I think my mother enjoys the minidramas that ensue as my sisters pursue their various interests.

When we are with people outside of family, we have always been cautioned that conversations which veer into politics or religion can change the tone of a visit rapidly. That seems to have only become more noticeable in recent years. However, when my family members gather, no topic is forbidden.

This visit, out of left field, my sister animatedly presented me with the topic du jour: Environmentally conscious toilet paper made of bamboo. Bamboo grows extremely fast and is an alternative to using precious tree pulp.

“Mother was furious when I came home with bamboo toilet tissue!” she exclaimed.

“Mom demanded, ‘Why on earth would you buy me beige toilet paper?’”

Two weeks later, our mother came in and changed her tune.

“I never want anything but bamboo toilet tissue! No more white toilet paper,” Mom had informed her, a new edict of the house.

Now my sister had a problem. She explained to me that she couldn’t find this bamboo tissue anywhere. She had searched and searched and there appeared to be yet another product shortage, due to supply chain issues.

I smugly pulled out my phone to look on my Amazon app. One can find anything on this app. I searched and there was no bamboo toilet paper. I was stumped. I decided to Google bamboo paper, of the brand my mother wanted. One site had it at an astronomical, price-gauging cost. It was quadruple the cost of the “out of stock” rate. Only one pharmacy chain had it, and it could not be ordered online. Shoppers had to go to their nearest store and see if it was in stock.

My sister had already checked with the nearest pharmacy the day before and been told it would be two weeks until a new delivery came in. I suggested we drive to the nearest small town, a place where people wouldn’t try beige toilet tissue, and try our luck there. We all loaded into the car for our important road trip. I felt like this would have made a great documentary film: In Search of Beige Toilet Tissue.

My mom and I waited patiently as my sister shopped. Shortly, I saw what looked like a small boat, loaded to overflowing, coming out of the store’s double doors. It was being piloted by my sister, who was not visible behind the mountain of paper rolls. She had emptied the shelves. Perched crookedly on top of the stack was a sign proclaiming, “Buy one, get two free!”

She exuberantly wheeled her way to the car and filled the vehicle with packs of tissue. “I have to return the sign,” she shared, as she ran back with her empty basket. In the manner of small towns, there had been no limits put on her purchases.

As she jumped victoriously behind the wheel, she exclaimed, “The clerk told me the store right near us received their delivery today. They have ten packs.” Off to the races!

After our next stop, and an emptying of those shelves of the undesired brown tissue paper, we couldn’t see each other in the car.  Every space had tissues crammed in.

Our mother would have the tissues she wanted, the earth would be in a better place with more trees and we, the loving sisters, had won a special place in the pantheon of “Those Who Please Mom the Most.”

But the story did not end here. The next morning, my earth-loving sister whispered to me that she had slept on our project. “I’m worried that taking down the bamboo may affect the habitat of panda bears.”

This is how toilet tissue was added to politics and religion as a verboten topic, too hot to get into in general discussion.

July 2022 Issue

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Katina Pontikes
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