D.L. Stewart: Racing the clock to track down an elusive quarry

When I wake up, the clock reads 6:43 a.m. So I roll over, intending to go back to sleep. Nothing good ever happened at 6:43 a.m. But then two words cut through my fog.

Toilet paper.

Ever since the coronavirius made toilet paper as elusive as Bigfoot, I’ve stalked it in vain from store to store, merely to be frustrated at finding only empty shelves where the alleged toilet paper had once been.

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I’m not alone. In Australia, Newsday reported, three women got into a hair-pulling brawl over a cartful of toilet paper. On eBay, a roll was advertised for $63. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee suggested using corn cobs as a substitute, although that probably was a joke. Huckabees are noted for their humor.

The only way to bag my quarry, one store’s employee had informed me, was to get there early.

“How early?”

“We open at 7.”

So at 6:44 I leap from the bed, jump into my car and race to the store.

It’s 6:57 when I arrive. The parking lot, which normally would be virtually deserted at this hour, already is one-third full. I park the car and dash to take my place at the end of a line waiting at the front door. Most, but not all, are senior citizens, for whom the store has established an early-bird policy. It’s like queuing up for a Wayne Newton concert.

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It’s exactly 7 o’clock, but now I’m worried because there are dozens of shoppers in the long gray line ahead of me. Maybe some of them are just here for Depends, I tell myself.

When the doors open there’s a cane- and walker-assisted scramble for shopping carts, but I have no time to waste on one. I swivel-hip my way into the store through the traffic jam of carts, but then I’m faced with a decision. Is the paper products aisle to the left or to the right? I’ve shopped at this store for decades, but I don’t remember where the paper products are located, because I seldom buy anything I can’t eat or drink Now, though, one wrong turn and the race could be lost.

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I gamble on right and it pays off, leading me directly to the paper products aisle. I’m so close to my TP I can almost smell it.

When I reach the toilet paper shelf, there are only a few 12-packs left. I grab a pair and leave the store triumphantly, hugging 24 precious rolls to my bosom.

It’s 7:16 and I’m savoring the thrill of victory.

In your face, coronavirus.

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