Wednesday, December 26, 2012

“The Toilet Paper Conundrum” by Amanda Terry

I am a self-professed Grinch.  Not the Salvation Army executive who steals from children Grinch, but the Grinch who hates Christmas.

My dislike of this season has nothing to do with religion, but more about the commercialization of it.  The bright, garish lights, the noise of endless repeats of the same old Christmas songs, and especially the crowds….

The date is December 23.  Presents are wrapped, food is bought, goodies baked and I'm just about to head out to work for my last day followed by a 5 day weekend.  I'm standing in my bathroom, when I happen to look down and notice there are only a few sheets left on the toilet paper roll.  I open the linen closet, bend down and..... oh, no.  There's one roll of toilet paper left – in the entire house. 

Being the logical thinker that I am, I quickly do the mental math.  1 roll, 10 days – can I make it?  I mentally assess how many napkins I have in the house and realize that this really wouldn't go over very well should I get an unexpected drop in visitor. 

I sigh.  Looks like an after work visit to the mall.

I also have a frugal streak in me, so it never actually occurs to me that I could stop by the grocery store two blocks from my house – even if it costs a dollar or two more.  My first and only thought is Wal-mart. 

I battle my way through the parking lot, find a spot that's about a ½ km from the door and the only free space in the lot.  I trek across parking lot, dodging what I call the Shopping Cart Roadkill.  Parents with carts piled high with gifts for their demanding children can't see and are steering on instinct and let's face it: if you are hit with one of these overstuffed carts, who do you think will win: you or the shopping cart? 

So, with eyes wide open, I dodge not only the cars driving at breakneck speed searching for that elusive spot, but also trying not to become another Shopping Cart Roadkill statistic.

I reach the doors of the Wal-mart, take a deep breathe and push open the doors.  Flashing lights on the Christmas trees that rival the Griswolds, the blast of music assaults my ears and frantic shoppers nearing the end of their shopping marathons.  I wind my way through the throng and head to the house wares section to find that damn package of toilet paper.

I stand at the front of the isle and fall in behind a woman pushing a cart, holding a very young boy by the hand.  Her shopping cart is virtually empty and it takes great restraint on my part not to point out that if she doesn't want her child knocked out by a random elbow or rogue cart, she should place her child in the cart's basket. 

But I hold my tongue and shuffle forward until I'm standing in front of the toilet paper section.  I grab the cheapest store brand package off the shelf and push my way through the isle to the checkout line and grunt with frustration.

The lineup extends halfway across the store.  There is just a single cashier on duty; it appears as if everyone else has left for dinner.  The cashier is new, having been hired just for the Christmas season – which I found out later by the 'trainee' sticker on her name badge.  She appears to be a teenager who is having trouble working the cash register and counting out change. 

In front of me in line is a parent with a screaming kid in the basket of the cart who is constantly reaching out and pointing to the displays saying, “I want.”  The parent looks like she has not just run one marathon, but two.

I balance the package of toilet paper on my hip and try very hard not to tell the kid to shut up.  From behind and I can hear more screaming and this time it's a parent, on a cell phone who has no idea she has already bumped me twice on the butt with her shopping cart.

I switch the package of toilet paper to other hip, close my eyes and try to imagine my zen place – which happens to be a beach in St. Lucia.  But that doesn't long as I listen to the loudspeaker announce that the cashier of the open line at the Wal-mart has just run out of loonies.

Slowly, the line shuffles forward and I'm next in line.  I place the package of t.p on the conveyor belt and again sigh with frustration as an elderly lady in front of me insists on dumping out the contents of her change purse on the belt to count out a dollar in pennies and nickels.

Finally, it's my turn.  The young cashier rings through my single purchase and I hand over a $10 bill.  I shove the uncounted change into my pocket, wave off her offer of a plastic bag and hurry out of the store. 

I stop just outside the door to zip up my coat and check my watch: my one item of necessity cost me an hour of time.  I stomp back across the parking lot, dodging cars and carts and as I reach the darkest section of the lot, I notice a car inching along behind me.  

As a single female, my Spidey sense tingles that its creepy, but my logical brain says, “He wants your space, so he's following you.”

Now that I have my purchase and I've wasted an hour anyway, I decide to have a little fun.  I turn around, scrunch up my forehead and pretend I don't remember where I parked.  I rub my chin and wander up and down the line of cars until the guy following me throws up his hands and drives off.

 I mentally give him the finger and push the keyless entry unlock button on my key fob.  The taillights on my car, which I just happen to be standing in front of, blink in response.  I throw the package of prized toilet paper in my car, fire up my car and peal out of the parking lot.

That was the year I vowed that I would never shop anywhere that close to Christmas ever again.

This year, I finished my shopping two weeks before Christmas, and I have a full package of toilet paper, paper towels, facial tissues and cat food in my linen closet.  But I’ve forgotten something, I’m sure. This year, though, I’ll spend the extra dollar and buy it at the grocery store.  Or figure out a way to make due until January 2 when the world returns to normal.
Amanda Terry works as a full time office manager/bookkeeper and writes to fulfill the creative side of her brain. Although she has taken a number of Brian Henry's courses and workshops, she has yet to find her niche. She is still hopeful it will come to her one day, perhaps in the shower or through a dream. On December 6, Amanda gave a reading of "The Toilet Paper Conundrum" at LaVita Café in Georgetown.

See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Milton, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Orillia, Gravenhurst, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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