The Toilet Paper Explained

A long time ago (beginning of March), in a galaxy far away (across town), I made a run to Costco (Ground Zero). This is usually Hubby’s job but my super efficient self had to get gas anyway. I pulled into a front row parking spot that sunny morning, congratulating myself on arriving before opening hour and turned on the radio for a rare five minutes of relaxation. I thought it was odd to see a crowd gathered near the warehouse doors on a Tuesday, but with Costco you never know. I shrugged a couple of minutes later, gathered my shopping list and headed over to stand with the happy campers and stare at the rollup doors the way my cat stares down a can of tuna.

The woman closest to me gave me funny look. Not a happy one. Like maybe my fly was down or I had mustard on my face. I looked around and realized that she was the line leader for everyone there. Behind her stretched a trail of people gripping empty shopping carts down the entire length of the building. Huh? Since when does everyone get in line? Costco is famous for the wide open cattle range that it is. Every man for himself. It works.

Not on her watch.

I glanced to my left and a gentleman stood there with an amused smirk and crossed arms and I copied him and got myself comfortable. People are weird.

“I’m not getting in line,” I told him. “There’s enough stuff for an army in there, what’s the rush?”

At opening time, another amazing thing happened. From the exit door, three employees walked out and, facing the line of customers, held up their cell phones and began to shoot video. They shook their heads in disbelief as the line began to move into the bowels of the store. The employee who opened the door began calling out to the passing people, “Take your time, folks, there’s plenty for everyone. Be polite, please. Thank you for staying calm.”

What in the world? It must be quite a sale. Too bad whatever it was wasn’t on my list.

With one raised eyebrow, I followed the last of the line into the store. No. That’s not true. I waited for the end of the line to show up and it didn’t. The whole parking lot was migrating towards me now, so I just waved my card and conducted business as usual. All aboard.

I zipped up the sidelines where no shoppers ever linger. I’m no amateur. Tossed the goods into my cart without skipping a beat, which is how I always shop. Get in. Get out. Tea time.

I came skidding around a corner five minutes later, halfway done, and darned if the line was still in formation and stretched in the opposite direction, the length of the warehouse. Perfectly serious faces, perfectly empty carts.

“Excuse me,” I mumbled at the line. I was monitored from all directions as they let me through.

“Get some more troopers back there,” an employee hissed into his walkie, scuttling by.

I craned my neck in a brief attempt to understand when Karen plowed triumphantly by, her cart full to overflowing with…toilet paper. If you are unfamiliar with a Costco-sized package of toilet paper, just know that it takes only two to prevent all further items going into your cart. These tissue towers won’t even fit under the cart. Karen had three and the front basket where the babies go was stacked with sanitizing hand wipes. The look on her face implied she was only warming up, but where was she going to put her groceries? Down her bra?

The next man went by with a Jenga-worthy stack in his cart and I heard him say, to no one in particular, “I own a business.” His tone was defensive.

Then a little old lady passed me and saw my shocked face. She only had a single plushie in her cart but said apologetically, “Well, I don’t really need any but if this is the way things are going, I may as well get me some now.”

I had no clue what was going on. I did not get this memo. I was a little freaked out.

I flung the rest of my groceries into the cart and dashed to the check-out where I had the place to myself. That alone is a creepy experience. The clerk behind the beep beep machine wore a resigned look. One braced for the inevitable. Long suffering and just a bit in shock.

“What?” she said, scanning items, “no toilet paper?” I gripped my cart in an effort to remain calm. Was I making a terrible mistake?

“What’s happening?” I asked her under my breath, not sure I wanted to know.

She stopped scanning and just stared at me. There was no one else in line. She leaned forward and said, “Well, I’ll tell you. Last week, three of our trucks were stalled out east due to bad weather. Happens all the time. These just happened to contain our toilet paper. So, for a couple of days, there was a big empty space where it goes.” She stood taller. “It’s not like we weren’t going to get it any minute, we had to keep the space open.”

I thought for a beat. Costco never has empty spaces. Product is continually shifted to maximize sales.

“Anyway,” she continued, as she swiped my items from left to right, “A rumor went around that there was a shortage. So when the trucks finally arrived, there was a run on it.” She paused. “I get it if people were out but I mean, you can buy the stuff anywhere. We all decided they must just love our brand or whatever, but it’s happened every single day since. Cleaned out faster than we can put more on the pallets. No reason why. We have plenty. We won’t run out.”

She looked towards the cattle drive and shook her head. “Do you need boxes today?”

I declined her offer, thanked her, and bolted.

I was almost to my car and a lady went by and laughed, “What? Where’s your toilet paper?”

I was prevented from replying because three different cars were inches from my body, poised to take my spot as soon as I pulled out. The parking lot resembled Disneyland on a get-in-free day. A steady surge of humanity kept flowing into the warehouse, trapped in the toilet paper tractor beam.

At this point, you have to know some things. One, I did not in any way need toilet paper. And two, I was contemplating unloading my groceries into my car and going back for some because I didn’t want to get left behind. I felt deprived, anxious, needy, and fearful of the future.

“What if? What if?” asked my mother’s voice.

Well, I answered, “if we need some, we’ll buy it at the 7-11 on the corner. If the planet runs out, squirt bottles for everybody.” It was time to go home.

Ewww,” said the voice.

“The Europeans are way ahead of us as it is. Hush.” I sat in the car and took a nice deep breath. “And if we didn’t need any, then everyone here is going to feel a bit silly a month from now.”

Ahem.

The Amazing Race

I’m on the way to Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Between home and there, we have to cross Nevada and Utah.
The plan is to drive to Richfield, Utah on day one and the rest of the way on day two.
There are three other families driving this route at the same time, spread out along the way so as not to advertise each other’s driving techniques.
Some of us *ahem* drive a wee bit zippier than others.
I don’t name names in this blog, but one rhymes with “chubby”.
Our wimpy car could’ve gone even zippier, except Hubby had everything and the kitchen sink packed into the back of it. The man likes his options.
We are all connected by a running group text, in case of emergencies.
Such as, someone in our car needs a slushy pronto and has anyone seen a Dairy Queen up ahead?

The first car headed east had a solid two hour lead.
Halfway through Nevada, their air conditioning broke.
It was over 100 degrees and climbing.
Their plan was to get to a dealership somewhere in Utah, where the next two cars coming along would catch up and offer assistance.
They ran their car heater in case it would help the engine, and landed, dripping wet and in borderline heat stroke, in St George Utah.

We pulled into the dealership parking lot just as they were informed that the air conditioning wasn’t going to be fixed. Not today anyway.

As the third car joined us, and folks generally milled around in the volcanic heat, I noticed Hubby looking at the front of our own car.
Like a man who just found a hair in his soup.
Like a man who just discovered his kids’ secret booger collection.
Both of our front tires had gone bald. The tread gone, the cables showing.
No explanation other than: we need two new tires immediately.
“Jolie? What do you have for me?”
Within five minutes, I had discovered via Smarty Phone that the nearest Costco was at the next exit up the freeway, their tire department (“Mike”) had tires in stock for us, and could install them in the next half hour.

Boom.

Which is how the other cars took the lead in this Amazing Race while we ended up browsing a Utah Costco. A fascinating experience in what a Costco can do when called upon by Brigham Young to provide for multiple wives, each of whom require a phenomenal kitchen at exceptional prices.

The following is actual footage from my cell phone text with the car that had gone ahead of us.
It began by asking if anyone needed anything from Costco while I was there.
I was eyeing up the wine selection while thinking of our hotel room still tantalizingly out of reach.
I didn’t get any takers.

So this Costco is totally geared up for big family homes.
Domestics alone – kitchen gadgets! – is killing me.
I want it all and have no room in the car for a single spatula.
I blame Hubby. If he hadn’t’ve packed the kitchen sink I could be buying a new one right now. Besides, I don’t fit in.
Surrounded by good Mormon mamas and I’m dressed like a wicked city woman.
Well. I got the skirt right.

Cover those shoulders Jolie! People will be scandalized.
Are you taking photos?

Hey! This isn’t Walmart.

Hahaha! That’s what they thought until you arrived.

You’re a very bad friend. Why do I talk to you?!

I don’t know.

So I took some pictures for her.
The first one is to prove that yes, I could have bought a kitchen sink.

In this case the dishwasher is an upgrade.

In this case the dishwasher is an upgrade.

The other one is proof that, in addition to a huge selection of furniture that was being jumped on by a multitude of identical children supervised by pregnant women wearing skirts and tennis shoes, this Costco offers thirteen different vacuums.

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Thirteen.
Just of vacuums.

I fled St George Utah before my overwhelming nesting instincts kicked into gear.
I could feel my hair growing past my waist and a sympathy pregnancy coming on.
We caught up to our peeps in Richfield and they had the courtesy to not “U Turn” us.

The Amazing Race continued the next day, our Utah Roadblock now in the distant past.

Black Eye Friday

If you have been up since midnight today, you have my deepest sympathy.

There’s not one thing I want bad enough to trade sleep for. Neither is there a bargain so great that I’m willing to risk a black eye over it. It’s all yours.

But on my list for later is a lingerie shop. Somewhere in the back, between the perfume and the silk stockings, they must sell what I’m looking for: a hairnet.

Because nothing lights up my Hubby’s eyes like a fat lady in a hairnet handing out free samples.

I suppose you’re a fan of Costco too?

It’s the only place he goes on Black Friday. He could get any of this stuff online. And there’s always a line outside the door, not just today. They always have deals. In bulk.

Last year he filled a cart and two flats with stuff. Simply because he could. He was like a kid in a candy store. All the impulse shopping he could do and no regrets.

“This place is great!” he cries constantly, “You can return anything. Any time!”

And we did. Over the next few weeks, it almost all went back. But boy did he have fun.

Here’s my little rant, and feel free to disagree. Costco is ridiculous.

You will never walk out with just what was on your list. And what was on your list, you must buy in vast amounts. So your budget…yeah, creamed.

But if Costco sells it, Hubby will buy it. My only hope for ever getting new furniture or a blender or diamond jewelry is if they sell it. Vacations, clothing, tortillas and backpacks, you name it. Hubby is positive that Costco has done all his research on a product for him. Costco will add their own warranties to products and let you return that crusty used toaster for a full refund.

Even if you threw away all the packaging and you’re dragging it by its cord.

Even if the receipt is stuck to the bottom of your trashcan with maple syrup.

Even if the melted pop tart is still fused into a slot.

Because that’s the kind of customer service we’re talking about, by George, and that’s five stars by him.

I’m horrified. Straight up. That he would even try a stunt like that.

And Costco is enabling this behavior.

He loves to go there on his lunch break during the week. He feels like he gets a cheap meal that comes with a floor show. You can sit down and eat a hot dog with a Coke and watch the most random people buying the most random items.

But first, he works the building and visits the hairnet ladies.

There is stiff competition for the free samples around the store. He spars with an elderly man over a quarter of a cheeseburger. He pushes in front of a lady’s motorized shopping cart to get his taste of rolled taco bites.

When the family of four starts taking more than one sample each, he has to reach right between them and snatch his fair share of chocolate covered pretzels.

But when the bacon lady is ready to pull out her next batch of hickory smoked kibble, you’d better believe he maneuvers to be first in line. And even that isn’t a guarantee he’ll get one. Scalded fingers and burnt tongues are a small price to pay for your share of tasty goodness.

Sadly, our sons are also learning to love a lady in a hairnet.

I stand aloof, my back to the sock displays, and watch with unabated horror. I act like I don’t know my own family and only make eye contact to silently shame them into stopping.

“Don’t take the sample!” my eyes plead, “we aren’t going to buy that. It’s not right. Why are you fighting for something you don’t need?”

But the siren song of the hairnet ladies overrides my calls for composure and they flit helplessly from cart to cart, only bypassing the ones handing out Ensure and chia seeds.

It’s nice to know that Hubby would leap tall buildings in a single bound if only I wore a hairnet and was handing out bacon bits.

So I guess my shopping list is much smaller than yours. Wake me up when it’s noon.