Apocalypse 2020: The Great Plague Bog Roll Shortage

It’s March, and already Australians have survived rabid climate deniers, an incompetent Prime Minister, the worst novelty biscuit flavours ever invented, far too much disaster tourism and an Order of Australia medal being awarded to an absolute cunt of a rape apologist; not to mention drought, heatwaves, bushfires, air pollution,hail, floods, cyclones,  and the loss of too many lives.

We are exhausted. The school year commenced within sight of fires still burning, with teachers and students alike twitchy and glassy-eyed. The long summer holiday was spent in evacuation mode, and nobody feels rested. Those who were fighting the fires, floods and cyclones are back at work, drained. Other desks are empty as those who still have leave – and energy – join the cleanup efforts.

This isn’t an excuse. It’s just context. We made it through all these disasters without panicking. Australians waited calmly on beaches for fire fronts to pass. We huddled together around air filters. We shared supplies, or news of who had hot water for showers and tea for the firefighters. And we laughed – perhaps a trifle manic, but laughing nonetheless – as we shovelled hail off our doorsteps and watched flood water cascading over a cliff that only weeks before had been on fire.

It is relatively easy to prepare for a natural disaster you can see. You can do real and tangible things to prepare. Clean your gutters and pack the car before a bushfire. Move to high ground before a flood. Bring the pets inside and check your neighbours in a heatwave. Pop your sun shield on the outside of your windscreen when expecting hail.

Maybe it’s that we still have cupboards full of food that we bought in anticipation of week-long power outages during bushfire, flood or cyclone that we haven’t yet eaten, but we have managed to run down the bathroom supplies we had previously stockpiled.

Maybe it’s because we were so distracted all summer that we didn’t even notice the virus creeping up. News from Wuhan wasn’t going to get much airtime when it was so far away. And it was just one cruise ship, no big deal...

Australia hasn’t had terribly many cases of COVID-19 yet – far fewer than most other countries. And the more severely affected countries seem to be doing okay, all things considered. The only thing that makes sense is that we are all at breaking point already, and we just don’t know what we should be doing to prepare.

So I offer an apology to all of you. COVID-19 may have started in China, but the Great Toilet Paper Panic of 2020 seems to have commenced in Australia, and now it’s spread all over the world – and all over the supermarket. This afternoon there were empty shelves all over the place, in the most bizarre places: there was no mince in the meat aisle, the broccoli was gone (but sitting right next to a large pile of cauliflower), chicken stock powder had disappeared, and no wraps to be had in the bakery. Barbecue Shapes (Original Recipe) had been depleted (there were still plenty of the heinous Sausage Sizzle and unspeakable Meat Pie ‘special edition’ flavours still available, just in case you wanted to worsen your day).

At least we all still have plenty of masks in the cupboard from when the air pollution was bad…                                                                                                                    



  1. I’m still alive, last time I checked, but have had a small amount of Not Functioning that I am now past, probably.
  2. I will update reQuest reWards in the next day or so.

COVID-19 check in:

Not a lot of news in the small cities of the American South. We are moving slightly slower than the rest of the country, but we are following the lead of the big cities. We are not yet seeing many people staying at home, but school has been cancelled for at least two weeks. Some businesses are limiting their hours, some shelves in the grocery stores are empty (yes, especially toilet paper), and some businesses are feeling the pinch as people stop going out as much.

As I work for the schools, I have lowered risk of exposure now that the students aren't attending, but at this point we are having "teacher work days". This means I show up, try to find enough paperwork and planning to fill my time, and have enough contact with coworkers to maintain exposure risk. No clear cases have been identified in town, although there are unsubstantiated rumors that the local hospital has seen some cases.

Meanwhile, our kids are stuck at "home"... which means, in a low-income neighborhood where parents can't take time off work, the kids are spending time with whatever grandparents, friends, aunts and uncles, and siblings that can take them. Parents don't get to choose what is best for their family (unless the choice is unemployment or putting their support system at risk). And since most things are not shut down, and because we now have children moving through more households, we can expect to see Covid-19 to continue to spread, without any direction from informed decision-making targeted at protecting the vulnerable. Yay!

If it does come down to it, I can easily lock myself away for a month without starving or running out of reading material. My guess is that we aren't going to go down into a real lockdown, and I will get sick when the kids come back to school, whenever that is. I am not a high-risk patient, though, and don't expect that getting sick will mean much more than another two weeks off work :-/

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