The History of the Great Apocalypse of 2020
This tale is satire.
In the Year 2055 - What is Toilet Paper?
"Mom, what's toilet paper?" asked twelve-year-old Zelda.
"Toilet paper?" Zelda's mother said. "Boy, that takes me back. Where did you hear about toilet paper?"
"I heard a kid talking about it. Sounds pretty creepy."
"No, no, it wasn't creepy. It was very useful at the time."
"Yeah, but what was it?" Zelda persisted.
"Well, you know what a toilet is, of course. When I was growing up we used a tissue type of paper to uh, well, wipe our bums after we, you know."
"Ew, gross. Why did you use paper when you could use the bidet?"
"Only rich people had bidets. Toilet paper was used from the mid-1800s until the Great 2020 Apocalypse," said Mom.
"What happened in 2020?"
"2020 was the year of the country ran out of toilet paper. You see there was a country called China. In late 2019 an epidemic of a virus started and soon spread around the world, and at that time it became a pandemic. As soon as the media heard about it they spread panic in America. Everyone freaked out before it barely got here. They went to a giant warehouse grocery store called Costco and started buying massive amounts of toilet paper. In fact, wherever toilet paper was sold people flocked and bought it all up."
"Hold on a minute, Mom. What's a store?"
"Oh, well, stores were places where people went, buildings, to buy their food."
"Why would they do that when they can go online?"
"Because that was the way it was done for centuries. Anyway, back to toilet paper. The stores had long lines winding around the buildings and down the block waiting to get in to buy it. People, in their panic, began to horde it. They'd buy enough to last them months, even a year or more, and that meant they sold out quickly leaving others without."
"I don't get it, Mom. Why would a virus make people stockpile toilet paper? Did the virus cause diarrhea?"
"Oh no, it was a respiratory virus."
"Hm. That's really weird."
"Pretty soon fights broke out in stores, and they had to make rules about how much people could buy. But toilet paper wasn't the only thing they were buying. They also stocked up on water and canned goods and a lot of other foods."
"Oh no, was the virus in the water systems?"
Zelda's mind couldn't make sense of this tale. "Mom, are joking around? I mean were people that dense? Why did they buy water?"
"Well honey, I assure you I'm not joking. The fact is, you nailed it, people were dense. That's what panic does."
"Wow, this is mind-boggling. So then what happened?"
"For some reason, toilet paper companies couldn't keep up. People starting trading their children for one four-pack of toilet paper. The government tried to put a stop to it but people were desperate. They also traded their houses for a two-ply twelve-pack which is the equivalent of twenty-four rolls. Some people paid thousands of dollars for a Costco package which was twenty-four rolls."
"How long did that last?" asked Zelda.
"Depends on how many people were in the family. As you know, we had six kids in my family. Dad traded my older brother and younger sister for a Costco pack. I never saw them again."
"You can't be serious. People traded their children so they could clean their bums?"
"Fraid so. People traded just about anything and of course, there were thieves breaking into homes and businesses to get it. My dad owned a jewelry store. One night someone broke in and went into the restroom and stole his one roll of toilet paper. The idiot left thousands of dollars of jewelry intact. Banks were held up because people were putting toilet paper rolls in their safe deposit boxes, plus the employees had their personal restroom of course. Anywhere a bathroom could be found, people stole from it."
"Okay, so wasn't there something else they could use?"
"Oh sure, people used Kleenex, paper towels, phone book pages, things like that. Sure kept the plumber and septic companies overloaded."
"What's a phone book, Mom?"
"They were books with phone numbers of businesses. Way back before I was born they had people's private landline numbers."
"What's a landline?"
"You sure ask a lot of questions. Some people got so desperate they started sending their housecats outside and used the litter boxes."
"ACH, that's nasty, Mom."
"Hold on Zelda, I feel a panic attack coming on. I still have PTSD from all this and telling you is a huge trigger, but then, you need to know history, because the revisionists would have you believe all kinds of weird things."
In 1944, to meet war needs, American factories produced 96,000 aircraft, each with millions of parts.
I find it mind-boggling that we are finding it difficult to produce the masks and gloves we need to protect our essential personnel during this pandemic."— William D. Holland, Author and Philosopher 2020
Masks, Gloves, Hand Sanitizer Shortage
Zelda's mother went into the bathroom and took a tranquilizer, washed her face, and went back to tell her inquisitive daughter the rest of the story before she heard it on the streets.
"You okay, Mom?" Zelda asked, noting how pale Mom was.
"Yes, but I have to sit down. There's more, much more."
"Much more? How can it be any worse than what you've already told me?"
"Honey, as you grow older you will learn that one, history repeats itself, and two, whatever happens in the world, it can always get worse."
A sense of panic washed over Zelda. She fell with a thud into the chair next to Mom's. "I don't know if I want to hear the rest of it."
"I think you should know. History is important, and if you're smart, you will learn not to make the same mistakes, even if others do."
"Okay, let's have it." Zelda was having palpitations but she closed her eyes, took a few slow breaths, and calmed herself.
"Well, just as the toilet paper craze was amping up, they were also having a mask- gloves-hand sanitizer shortage. With the virus, everyone was naturally worried about getting it so they protected themselves with face masks. The mask manufacturers couldn't keep up with the demand. The hospitals and doctors' offices needed them, as well as employees in the essential businesses. Some people panicked when they couldn't find clinical gloves and masks and did some strange things like wearing costume masks and gardening gloves. Fortunately, most people began making their own masks. Some people even made their own hand sanitizer. Thank goodness for that, otherwise, my dad was thinking of trading me in for..." Mom put her head in her hands. "Oh, this is so painful to remember. Hospitals quit doing elective surgeries. I fell and shattered my ankle and gashed my head open. They sent me home with a sponge bob band-aide and an ice pack and said come back when the pandemic is over." She began hyperventilating.
"Take a long deep breath, Mom. You can do it. Here, I'll do it with you."
Together they took in a long deep breath, the blew it out of their mouths slowly.
"Again," said Zelda. "And again."
After doing the breaths five times, Mom was composed.
Hygiene, Weight Gain or Bust
Just then, Zelda's dad came in, having arrived home from work. He stopped in his tracks and looked from Mom to Zelda to Mom again.
"What's going on? You guys look like someone died. Oh no, did your mother have another stroke, honey?"
"No, she's fine. I am just trying to tell Zelda about the Great Apocalypse of 2020."
Dad grew pale. "Oh man, I need to sit down." He dropped into a chair with a heavy thud.
"It's okay, dad. Mom's already told me most of it. It is most of it, isn't Mom?"
"Well, not exactly."
"I need a beer," said Dad.
"I need one too," said Mom. "Actually, I'll take a glass of wine and a shot of whiskey too."
"MOM, you don't have to be an alcoholic over it."
"You're right. Forget the whiskey," she said.
"Okay," Mom continued. "Every day the President, Vice President, and all their experts gave press conferences to keep us updated. For every expert, there were always other so-called experts who gave conflicting opinions on the virus. No one knew what to believe. Every day things got worse. Governors started making it mandatory to stay indoors or we'd be arrested or fined. We couldn't go for a walk under any circumstances. Beaches and parks were closed. Oh, I forgot to mention that gas prices went so low we only had to pay 25 weeks to the gallon. People didn't need gas. The stock market crashed over and over. Honey, what else do you remember?"
Dad thought for a minute. "I remember mom checking the calendar on the phone every day to tell us what day it was. And of course, we had to have school at home. We had summer vacation for three years. The psych wards were overrun. They had to build tent psych wards in major cities. The National Guard came in and ran them. They couldn't bring their weapons in, though, for obvious reasons. Let's see, what else?"
"Oh, tell her about the hygiene disaster?" said Mom.
"Oh man, that was the worst. We had to constantly wash our hands, and we had to do it for twenty seconds. My mom made us sing happy birthday while we washed because it was about twenty seconds. I got tired of that song, so I made up other little ditties.
"Because people were home all day, every day, they quit caring about hygiene. Aunt Beth and Uncle Jason were forced to shower after the neighbors reported them to the health department. The stench got so bad rats began to gather in droves. They had to pay the exterminator a fortune to fumigate the whole neighborhood."
"Remember how long and shaggy-haired people got?" said Mom. "I couldn't tell Mom and Dad apart after a while."
Zelda looked puzzled.
"We couldn't go to the barber or hair salons. If you didn't know how to cut hair you were out of luck. Mom cut my bangs. Here, let me show you a picture." Mom disappeared and returned with a picture and showed it to Zelda.
Zelda stared in horror then went into hysterical laughter. Dad took the picture and looked at it. Pretty soon Dad and Zelda were on the dining room floor howling.
"It's not that funny," Mom said, her feelings hurt.
"Aw hon," Dad said. "We were just kidding around." He turned back to Zelda. "People got real fat. Boredom meant eating. People sat in front of the TV watching Monk and Downton Abbey marathons day after day, or had CNN on 24/7, eating chips, Corona beer, and Kentucky Friend Chicken.
A New Kind of Law Enforcement
After dinner, Mom said that was enough history lessons for one day, she was going to bed. Off she went, leaving Dad and Zelda alone.
"Dad," Zelda said, "what else happened during that time?"
"The world got really out of control. I recall people started having protests, wanting their jobs back. The economy crashed. The government was sending out trillions of dollars to people and businesses to try to keep them afloat until the virus died out. Riots and violence broke out. The police and the National Guard couldn't keep up. Thank goodness they emptied all the prisons to get some help.
"Dad, are you and Mom pulling my leg? Do you actually expect me to believe that last little bit you just told me? Prisoners for law enforcement?"
"You may not believe it but it's true. Why don't you do some research and you'll see Mom and I are telling the truth."
"No, that's okay. Just tell me one thing."
"There's a cold going around. Can we buy a couple more bidets?"
© 2020 Lori Colbo