Toilet Paper, Sanitizer, and Social Anxiety in a Pandemic

Here’s what I don’t understand – why are items that are available in restricted quantities NOT available to buy online or via a curbside shopping service?

Is it logistics? Too few employees to take half a delivery of TP, alcohol, and wipes and set it aside to fill deliveries/shipments and put half on the shelves? It is easier to jack up prices for in-store purchases? Is it some sort of offshoot of the laws of supply and demand that I don’t understand?

I have no objection to restricting quantities. I am firmly convinced that the health and welfare of my neighbors and folks still working in the community is critical to my own health and welfare. I am confident that Laura and I have routines and rituals designed to minimize our physical risk, mostly lots of hand washing and social distancing.

And I did anticipate a problem with supplies ahead of time, doubling our usual grocery orders in March so we didn’t really hoard anything but we stocked up. We are fine right now for TP, bleach, rubbing alcohol, wipes, medication, etc. And Hostess snack cakes. But I did that based on the idea that I could continue to order at some point from my online sources. Turns out, not gonna happen.

No TP to be found without physically going to a store.

Here’s my dilemma. Or my dilemmas.

  • My 87 year old neighbor doesn’t have a big supply and isn’t healthy enough to go to the store herself. So we need to buy what she needs.
  • My 49 year old friend was hospitalized and released, has a seriously compromised immune system and no capacity to shop for herself in the store right now.
  • Our own stock will diminish at some point.

If I stay out of the stores, it is better statistically for me and everyone else. Same with Laura. We avoid unnecessary exposure, we don’t transmit germs, and we don’t put extra wear & tear on a finite amount of resources that it the stamina of the folks keeping the stores open.

I don’t object to taking my turn, sharing, paying the fair price, limited choices on brands, and all that is requested of us. But going into a store right now is a challenge for folks living with social anxiety.

On a good day without an international pandemic, this is a challenge. I am anxious, antsy, and annoyed easily. I forget things, lose track of things, and feel lots of bad things. If there’s a line with a lot of people, I’m no good. It isn’t that I think people will sneeze on me and kill me, it is a general sense of anxiety that ramps up from a 3 to a 7 in a matter of minutes and literally shuts down some of my actual functional skills. It doesn’t make sense if you haven’t experienced it, but it is a very real and crippling ailment.

That’s why I began using Amazon and Target shipping as well as the Giant Eagle Curbside Express options a few years ago. All have made my life so much better. All still operate and provide some measure of relief to me.

I am sure there is a reason none of the delivery services offer these limited items, some logistical explanation that I simply know. But it doesn’t make sense to me.

Then I thought shelves would be restocked early in the morning or overnight. I went to the pharmacy to pick up medications today. Got there first thing and not a sheet of TP in sight. The pharmacist told me that the delivery will be arriving on Friday (today is Thursday) early in the morning, but not on the shelves until “around 11 AM.” The woman next to me told me Rite-Aid is expecting a shipment at 1 PM.

The idea of having to be in a queue of people, much less potentially sick people, fighting over toilet paper is terrifying to my psyche, not my sense of physical health. Driving around from store to store based on tips and rumors is part of a recurring nightmare I have. This is not a great option for me. I don’t think I can safely do this, even with the motive to purchase items for people who really need them.

Laura doesn’t have those anxieties, but Laura is working from home and really busy. She can go with me first thing in the morning and during some evenings/weekends, but she’s pretty much working a solid 40 hours a week plus some. She has to go into her workspace a few times a week and that’s enough social contact for her.

So now I think my option is to find someone already planning to go to the store willing to share their shopping allotment with me to buy these items, drop at my house without contact, wipe-them down myself, keep what we need for our use, take to our neighbor and friend who will wipe them down again. Then repeat?

If you can explain to me why the shipping/shopping services do not permit us to purchase toilet paper, that would be something I’d really like to understand. Maybe then I can prepare myself to pursue another option. And explain it to others.

I’m also perturbed that Giant Eagle is not scheduling any curbside deliveries right now. They say they are on a five day out delay, but I’ve been checking every few hours all week and there is just no content.

This makes it a thousand times worse, this feeling of being misled or pandered to. If Giant Eagle’s scheduling system cannot handle the demand and traffic right now, that makes sense, but please tell us. Telling me keep checking back is a non-answer. I *really* need this service. It makes sense to me to ramp up curbside and delivery services to reduce the number of people in the stores. What am I missing?

I need to know how we are supposed to get groceries.

With social anxiety, it isn’t about not *having* things – we can make do – but it is the not *knowing* things that is highly triggering. And the added layer of anxiety of not being able to help vulnerable people in my life because of this damn illness.

Meanwhile if you have any TP or Lysol spray or wipes on your trips, I will gladly pay you for them – both market price and for your time.


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