The Ladies Out Back Turned Me Into a Hoarder

Two baskets of the hoard. The rest chilling in the fridge.

“heres the deal,” I texted, “1 dozen for 1 roll. make sure its whole.”

A dozen eggs for a roll of toilet paper: a fair exchange in these times, I thought.

“delivr is prob,” came the reply. Yes, it is, I agreed.

I had imagined a furtive exchange at an isolated location, with the actors peering at each other from afar to keep up the social distancing. Maybe we’d crouch behind a bush or tree and catch a glimpse through binoculars — small spy-gear ones, like opera glasses. My hoarded eggs in trade for hoarded toilet paper, a lesson in Covid-19 economics and human folly.

Like David Sedaris, I have failed at my attempts to hoard anything at all, but my little flock of chickens have helped me retain my pride with a hoard of eggs — multicolored ones, since we have two Araucanas (“Easter Egg Chickens”), a sole layer of whites (“Lucy” the Polish with the fancy hair-doo), and a cackle of Buff Orpingtons, all named “Ethyl” because they’re indistinguishable one from another. Julius, the rooster, of course, doesn’t lay — eggs at least. He occupies himself with other things, since roosters, as people in the Middle Ages knew, prod us to virtue. When I go out every morning around five o’clock, he rouses himself to crow.

We have about a hundred eggs amassed today in baskets and cartons in the fridge. I used to traffic them — foisting a dozen here and there to the visitors, mainly visiting children. Derek and Kathleen were always ready to take a couple dozen, Aaron and Natasha, too. The Horsey Ladies at the barn down the road were good for a couple dozen sometimes – mostly fancy women who procured their eggs from Whole Foods, probably. Anyone who chanced to drop by.

We remind them: “Occasional smears of manure indicate freshness.”

Today, the innocent egg trafficking has stopped, and unwillingly we have an abundant hoard of eggs but a dearth of toilet paper.

Who knows, perhaps my Ethyls, Lucy, and the Easter Eggers might lay golden eggs. I will have inadvertently succeeded at hoarding something.

The only place I know with toilet paper is a country store off the road just north of us. A real country store that seems a bit stuck in Norman Rockwell’s America, but they had some Charmin and eight individually wrapped rolls of “Marcal Pro Snow Lily” sitting serenely on a lower shelf when I dropped by. Septic safe, so I bought four rolls of the “Pro” paper, 69 cents each plus tax. (I do wonder what the “Pro” means, though. A professional-grade wipe?) The gentleman cashier nodded his head in disbelief when I told him he’s got the only toilet paper for sale in the county.

Toilet paper has become a currency: “In the high-stakes world of gift giving in Asia’s financial hubs, Montblanc pens and leather folios are out — toilet paper and surgical masks are most definitely in,” David Ramli and Abhishek Vishnoi reported from Hong Kong in February.

And this morning I read in the Washington Post that eggs, too, might soon be a prized commodity: “Wholesale egg prices have risen 180 percent since the beginning of March, according to Urner Barry, which does market price reporting,” said the article.

Who knows, perhaps my Ethyls, Lucy, and the Easter Eggers might lay golden eggs. I will have inadvertently succeeded at hoarding something.

Delivery is still a problem, and it’s far more gratifying to share the egg wealth without a trade of anything but goodwill and, sometimes, a visit. Visits are tough in today’s strange world. Goodwill, however, survives.

Mark DeLong writes, researches, and teaches at Duke University. He is currently writing a book on the automobile and the power of art in America.

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