Entertainment People Red Symons thinks coronavirus panic-buying shows it’s time to get some perspective

Red Symons thinks coronavirus panic-buying shows it’s time to get some perspective

Like many Australians, Red Symons has been taken aback by the absurdity of shoppers' coronavirus buying habits. Photo: TND
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Curious, I went to the toilet paper aisle of the supermarket that I’ve been going to for decades.

Sure enough, it was comical.

A distressed woman was staring at the almost-empty shelves, transfixed and inert, unable to decide if she should grab the one remaining pack of a toilet paper she had never chosen before.

Her preferred brand had been stripped from the shelves.

Did she need a “serving suggestion”?

Did it lack the warning that cigarettes come with and a picture of the worst-case scenario? Isn’t it all just paper?

The Northern Territory News should be applauded for an edition with watermarked blank pages delineating toilet paper.

A good joke is a laugh and a lesson.

Fortuitously, my phone rang just as I was taking this in.

It was my intimate companion who, when I told her where I was, immediately asked me to get some toilet paper.

With clarity and forthrightness, I said a single word.


I wandered to the delicatessen section and chatted to the man behind the counter about the absurdity of it all.

We discussed hoarding and bacalla, a dried and salted cod dredged from the North Atlantic.

It doesn’t need to be refrigerated, just soaked for a few days.

I used to see buckets of them propped like walking sticks or umbrellas or kindling in this same supermarket.

We agreed that it was a more sustainable thing to hoard in preparation for the twilight of civilisation.

I didn’t realise there was one hanging just above his head.

He pointed to it and observed, “That’s been there for five years.”

Rehydrating them can be onerous. You have to immerse them for a couple of days and regularly refresh the water to wash away the salt.

I have been advised that the cistern of a toilet can provide this regular replenishment.

Maybe you turn your nose up at this but you can be just as picky about brands of toilet paper.

Welcome to the pandemic, an interesting word comprising Pan-Ic – fear of everything – and including Demos, the people.

I am indebted to my son for the following observation.

A person can be intelligent and rational; people are not.’’

If a group of three or more stand still and look upwards, then passersby coalesce around them looking upwards to see what they are looking at.

We are herd animals racing from the pursuing predator in the general direction of the cliff.

Americans are panic-buying guns, which is understandable in a culture where the only safety net is money.

toilet paper mass buying
A security guard in the toilet paper aisle at Coles last week. Photo: Twitter

Halley’s Comet was pointed out to me by a friend some years ago. It was an indistinguishable dot.

There was a total eclipse that I observed in my lifetime.

I went outside, the birds went quiet, it got dark.

Ossie Ostrich told me that his parents sent he and his sister away to the country to elude the then untreatable polio. (Spoiler alert: He wasn’t a real ostrich, just a guy making a moveable neck and animated mouth with his right arm.)

Now I, too, can say that I’ve lived in a time of pandemic.

My ancestors survived the bubonic plague, cholera, dysentery and smallpox.

My psychological stance is that I am part of Darwin’s plan and I expect to emerge at the other end.

I am more interested in what the herd is not scrambling for at the supermarket, what they are not buying in a panic.

Booze, the cheap bottled water and the expensive pasta are being overlooked.

Cup-a-soup – simply add water for the impression of nourishment – is lying fallow on the shelves.

I was tempted by the metal cylinder of halal chicken luncheon meat that no one seemed to want.

Woman’s Day and New Idea seem to have lost their appeal.

Doesn’t anyone care about Brad and Meghan and Jennifer and Harry and Bieber any more?

The aisle with the Easter eggs and bunnies is almost untouched.

We have abandoned the pagan fertility ritual.

Will hot cross buns and Mithras, the Ox God, be abandoned too?

I am hoarding kippers.

I sought out the denuded frozen fish cabinets and, sure enough, the only thing disdained and left was the oily smoked fish. In bulk.

Can I suggest that you imagine yourself in lockdown on an 18th century sailing ship circumnavigating the globe.

They dealt with scurvy by eating barrels of fermented cabbage – sauerkraut.

Curiously there hasn’t been a run on rum.

Red Symons is a musician of the 1970s, TV vaudevillian of the 80s and 90s, radio voice of the new millennium and a sprinkled condiment in the theatre and print

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