Shortages bring about other shortages

Bill Taylor

It seems to me that the current virus crisis has given rise to shortages in a number of products — you know, hand sanitizers, disinfecting sprays, and such.

One result, however, is when a shortage in one area brings about a shortage in another — kinda like the proverbial domino effect. Well, that’s what’s happening with some items whose scarcity has resulted in shortfalls in other areas. One example has been the demand for face masks with some locations requiring individuals wear these protective devices.

Commercially produced masks have been allocated to medical and other first-line responders, leaving folks in the general public to fend for themselves. The response to this shortage has been for homemade masks by the hundreds of thousands if not millions being produced across the country — and that effort has brought on a second shortage. You see, these masks require a way of keeping them in place with the usual method being strips of elastic fastened to the sides of the mask and looped around the ears. The problem that has surfaced is a serious shortage of the elastic used for these loops.

Several ladies who have made a number of masks have told me not only have they run out of elastic in their own caches of sewing materials, but their usual suppliers have run dry as well. Instead, they are resorting to making “ties” from material to provide a means for keeping the masks in place, but this is a less than desirable alternative. Oh, by the way, I understand most of that elastic material comes from — care to guess where? You got it — China.

OK moving on.

Probably the most highly publicized shortage — and the one which hit more millions of folks in this country than any other — has been that of toilet paper. Several stores I have visited recently still either have no stocks on their shelves or limit the number of rolls per customer. This phenomenon has impacted our society in a totally unanticipated way — that of generating a dramatic increase in the sales of bidets. Yep, that’s right, bidets are reportedly in short supply in response to the toilet paper shortage. Wonder what a “bidet” is? Time for some education.

In general terms, a bidet is a plumbing fixture located near the toilet bowl and is designed to be sat on for the purpose of washing the human genital area, inner buttocks, and anus. It is intended to promote personal hygiene, and is employed after using the toilet, and before and after sexual intercourse and its use greatly reduces and may eliminate the need for toilet paper.

By the way, “bidet” comes from a French word meaning “little horse” reportedly referring to the straddling position users must assume to use it. “Bidet” may be pronounced “bee day” or “bye day” or some version thereof. It’s French so who knows for sure.

Anyway, bidets usually have had their own water supply and a drainage opening but more modern versions may combine a toilet seat with a washing capability consisting of several warm water jets and warm air drying. There are even bidets that may be attached to toilet bowls thus not requiring additional plumbing. One version that reportedly can be installed under an existing toilet seat in about 10 minutes consists of a hose connecting to the toilet’s water supply; a valve controlling the water pressure; and a nozzle directing the water stream. So why use a bidet? Well, proponents claim personal hygiene is improved by using bidets when compared with toilet paper — and some environmentalists claim millions of trees could be saved if this country used bidets instead of toilet paper.

OK, back to the subject at hand.

News stories indicate a dramatic increase in the sales of bidets. One bidet company reportedly got orders for 4,000 units in a single day and ordered another 50,000 units from its supplier. Another bidet company has described an eight-fold increase over last year’s sales and yet another that its online sales have nearly depleted its stocks. Yep, folks who follow such things figure the toilet paper shortage may well have been a “tipping point” for bidets in this country as evidenced by the near-shortage of these units — but bidets are commonly used in other parts of the world.

We encountered bidets during the years we spent in Europe but never used them. For one thing we couldn’t figure out which way to sit on those contraptions. As for today’s versions, we would have to redo our bathrooms to accommodate one of those multi-jet warm water devices. Yep, one of those inexpensive toilet seat add-ons using a stream of cold water to wash my backside just wouldn’t measure up.

At least that’s how it seems to me.

Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a regular contributing columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at [email protected]

Bill Taylor, a regular contributing columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at [email protected]