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PREST: Planning for the apocalypse sure takes a lot of toilet paper

Until recently, it had never occurred to me that when you are staring down the barrel of an apocalypse, the most important thing you need to do is secure massive quantities of toilet paper.
toilet paper
Toilet paper, the most indispensable item for any global emergency. photo flickr.com/macaron*macaron(Est Bleu2007)

Until recently, it had never occurred to me that when you are staring down the barrel of an apocalypse, the most important thing you need to do is secure massive quantities of toilet paper.

But then again, all of the apocalyptic thinking I’ve done in the past came when I was younger, more mobile, less tied down by children and homes and, apparently, poop.

During my pre-kid days I would map out my survival plan for what to do if a killer virus was sweeping across the land. My wife and I would drive away in the dead of night, our quick thinking allowing us to get the jump on the sluggards, beat the traffic over the bridges and get out of town to find a quiet backroad wilderness where we could wait things out. We’d feast on wild blackberries and make sagebrush tea, bring down an elk with a spear and say a quiet word of thanks to Mother Nature as the game sustained us until it was time to return to civilization. When we did return to this gutted barren urban hellscape, we’d settle into whichever abandoned West Van mansion we could find with the best combination of hot tub and wine cellar.

But what about a zombie attack? Back in my college days, we’d talk about handling a zombie invasion by rounding up a small group of our most capable friends, other young and tough and mobile adventurers who shared our love of the outdoors, our indefatigable spirit, and our interest in not being eaten by the undead.

Together we’d head west to the ocean, steal a sea-worthy vessel and sail into the blue yonder, crabbing and fishing for the most delicious survival food one could dream of. We’d find a uninhabited island, fortify it and be fully prepared to greet any suspicious outsider with a harpoon between the eyeballs.

But what about a more temporary threat such as a flood, earthquake, or Andrew Scheer-led government? My plan was to quickly grab a survival kit and head up into the North Shore mountains, watching and waiting from up on high until I was certain it was safe to come down and there would be no more aftershocks or reopenings of the abortion debate.

These were the survival plans that I mapped out in my brain. Nowhere in any of that apocalyptic planning, however, was there any discussion about arming ourselves for a life or death siege of the Cottonelle factory.

But judging from what I’ve seen in the news and on social media these last few days, I’ve been thinking about this all wrong. What I should have been doing was heading down to GiantMart and loading up four shopping carts with Slim Jims and toilet paper. So much toilet paper.

Photos from around the world have shown many humans leaving shopping centres laden with toilet paper as global nervousness sets in about COVID-19, the respiratory disease linked to the strain of novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China.

Sadly, COVID-19 has spread across the world and caused some deaths and hardships, and although it’s not a full-blown global disaster, it’s still got people worried enough that they are starting to enact their own emergency plans. And I just had no idea that for so many people, their emergency plans would involve so much ... wiping.

Many of the apocalyptic doomsday scenarios you read in books or see on TV involve groups of resistors or survivors banding together to fight back against whatever horror is threatening them. Join the movement! Who could have guessed that the only movement that really mattered in such an emergency would be the bowel movement.

My younger self would be appalled at the state of things today, with two-ply pirates hoarding jumbo packs and selling them to the panicked masses at a huge markup. But, as a mid-life guy now no longer in my zombie-fighting prime, I can understand the toilet paper panic a little bit. I see now that most rational people don’t immediately think about escaping to a forest hideaway and living off the grid. That sounds like a lot of work. I love the grid!

The more sensible response may just be to stock up a bit on things that will keep you comfortable while you simply wait out a crisis in your own home. A tree-top standoff with a crazed raccoon carrying a deadly virus might make for a sexier TV series, but, well, just about everything is sexier than wiping your butt. 

Let’s not judge though. We all have the right to protect our own backyards. I just hope that with the potential for tough times ahead, we can all work together as a community to keep each other safe without hoarding or blaming. Wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick, don’t panic, trust the science and listen to the experts.

If disaster strikes, you’ll find me at home playing video games with my kids. And, if you’re desperate, I’ll be there to help. Just give a gentle knock and a quiet word and I’ll slip you a two-ply, no questions asked.

Andy Prest is sports editor for the North Shore News. His humour/lifestyle column runs biweekly. aprest@nsnews.com