There’s a fuel shortage in the UK. Except there isn’t. There’s a shortage of tanker drivers to deliver the fuel to garages so there is a supply issue.
There is something else though – an excess of selfish people who immediately rush out to stock up on something they don’t need now and may not need next week or the week after. This, of course, leads to long queues at petrol stations that worry normal people who aren’t selfish but do need petrol now and next week, to get to work, to school, to aged relatives’ homes, to hospital appointments, and the other normal things that people must do.
Despite not being selfish and not wanting to join the panic buying, normal people who need to use their cars for normal things, join the ever-growing queues behind the selfish people who are now filling up their second car that hasn’t been driven for so long they have had to jump start it.
Queues get longer, garages do run out of fuel, nurses can’t get to work, and someone sits in their armchair, surrounded by rolls of toilet paper, moaning about lazy nurses and hospital waiting lists, with a full tank in the car on their drive, another in the garage, and cans full of petrol in their shed.
Why are they surrounded by toilet paper? That goes back to The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of March 2020 that started in Australia and spread through much of the world. You remember.
When the reality of the pandemic hit, the selfish people started buying enough toilet paper to last them for the duration or 10 years, whichever might be longer, forcing normal people to buy more too etc etc.
I was living in Budapest at the time and there was no panic buying of toilet paper in Hungary but when I went to my local supermarket, there was no meat on the shelves. Absolutely none. Not a single chicken drumstick.
What a fascinating difference in priorities. We happily ate lots of vegetables and lentils and were healthier for it.
Inevitably, the people who are worst hit by panic buying are those least able to join the rush.
There were dreadful images of hospital workers crying because there was nothing left on the shelves in supermarkets after they finished a shift caring for patients with Covid-19.
And the poorest are always hit hardest. Many people, even in the richest countries, struggle to buy what they need today. Buying in bulk is a ridiculous unreality for them.
What’s the answer? It’s easy to say rise above it and just buy what you need when others are ensuring there won’t be any left when you need it. We can always hope the idiots who still have a spare room full of toilet rolls have realised that they started the shortage because it didn’t last longer than it took to restock from warehouses, but that’s probably too much to wish for.
I don’t have a solution, but I must admit one thing. If there’s ever a shortage of tea, I’ll be ready to fight you for it.