Until recently, whenever I wanted toilet paper, all I had to do was enter any local supermarket, pharmacy or deli. Once inside, a plethora of products vied for my attention, like paparazzi stalking a celeb.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve joined the ranks of Toilet Paper Truffle Hounds, scouring local – and not so local – establishments in search of my favorite brand.
Or any brand.
To clarify: I’m not hoarding. I’m only trying to get the usual supply for my household. With this in mind, and thanks to a combination of diligence, desperation and luck, I’ve seen single roles with shady origins, multi-packs from name brands, and TP wrapped in shiny pink plastic, like paper petits fours.
I’ve bought them all.
Some are scratchy. Others thin. Certain brands scratchy and thin.
It doesn’t matter. Each time I score TP, I raise it high, like an olympian, brandishing a medal. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to buy enough, as each person is often limited to a few paper products per purchase.
Here’s an example of how I’ve thrown myself on the mercy of others in my quest for white gold.
Location: Wellness Pharmacy, 144 West 72nd Street
Players: Me, Store Cashier, Befuddled Neighbor
Me: (Spotting neighbor) Hi! Nice to see you.
Neighbor: Nice to see you, too.
Me: (Placing TP rolls on counter) Eight, please.
Cashier: Only four per person.
Me: (Eyes wide, pulse racing) Oh. (Thinking fast) No problem. Here’s four for me and …(turning to my neighbor who is a few people behind me in line) I’m buying these for you, okay?
Neighbor: Okay. Uh, what am I agreeing to?
Me: That I’m buying you this TP.
Neighbor: OH. (Winking) Right. Of course.
Me: (To cashier) … and the others I’m buying for my friend.
Cashier nods, rings it all up, hands me the package. I pay, and on my way out, turn to my neighbor.
Me: I’ll bring them to your apartment.
In addition to helpful friends, it’s vital to secure a professional connection. I refer to my Fairway informant as Employee X and our weekly interaction goes something like this:
Me: Hi! Nice to see you.
X: (Smiles. I think it’s a smile, it’s hard to tell behind the mask)
Me: Any idea when the next (whispering) paper products shipment arrives?
X: After midnight.
Me: Thanks so much.
Flash forward to next morning. I arrive early. Unfortunately, not early enough. There’s a long line. I stand on it. Eventually, I enter the store and stride, I mean speed walk (okay, run) toward the paper products section. My harried dash is reminiscent of a crazed reality show contestant. However, instead of competing for a man, money or a mansion, I desire Scott, Charmin, Cottonelle or any distant cousin.
I hurtle past stacked fruit, shimmy around a shopping cart, circumvent a Matzah display. Finally, I arrive at the paper products aisle.
Breathless and upset, but not deterred, I vowed to try again. And again.
At least I’m getting a lot of reading done, waiting on line.
I think (about toilet paper) therefore I am.
Tara Tandlich is an award-winning writer (Prose Fellowship- NJ State Arts Council), illustrator and multi-subject tutor. When she’s not tracking down errant TP, you may find her at: tarastutoringnyc.com and taratandlich.comGet the Upper West Side newsletter: