Toilet paper and marijuana (April 29/2020)

Talking to my Dutch teacher during the class of the week of March 16th, which is when our mild quarantine started here, the story of the queues to buy marijuana in the coffeeshops[1] came up. She’s Dutch but lives in Texas. We do the class on Skype. So, I said to her, in Dutch:

“People here in Holland queue up for two things: toilet paper and cannabis. These two things are very important to the Dutch, it seems.”

It is interesting to see what a society considers important. That says a lot about their collective personality. And because of the coronavirus crisis, we’ve seen hundred meters long queues to buy marijuana in coffeeshops before they closed. The Prime Minister announced at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday that at 6 p.m. the same day, that is, half an hour later, the coffeeshops, along with restaurants, bars, theatres, and other things, would have to close at least until April 6. Within two minutes, there was already a queue in front of the coffeeshops. Oh my God, three weeks in a row without drugs! It was in all the newspapers, and even the international ones, the queues to buy enough marijuana for three weeks. They emptied the shops.

Well, now it turns out, two days later, the coffeeshops are open again, well, only the selling part, the counter, not the coffee part. Nobody can sit there to smoke a joint, you can only buy it to smoke at home. So, what happened? Why did they change their minds?

Minutes after the coffeeshops closed and thousands of customers were left without their daily pot, the illegal sale on the streets soared. But they are too evident, they don’t care about being obvious here. They wandered around the corners, in the squares, just in the open air, the pot street vendors. And, they offered home delivery too.

That’s why the municipalities decided that it was better for them to continue selling inside instead of outside, and they authorized the sale on the counter, to go. Such power!

But the power of toilet paper surpasses them all. The first thing the supermarkets run out of when they announced that they were going to suspend some activities, was toilet paper. Note that here, it was never a real quarantine, there is no general quarantine here. Everyone can go out and go to the supermarket as usual. Only by keeping their distance. They can also go to work, only schools, bars, restaurants, theaters and events for more than 50 people are prohibited, but the rest is not. The beach is more crowded than ever. The open-air market, packed. The children’s squares, infested. But still, people think they have to lock themselves in their bunker to wait for the end of the world, so they buy toilet paper. We may die of a virus, or of hunger, but not with a dirty ass. Calvinist dignity.

(And do you know what Americans are lining up for? To buy weapons… or say, more weapons.)

Photo © AP

[1] Coffeeshops are cafes where you can buy marijuana and sit down to smoke it. But you don’t have to sit down and smoke it, you can also buy it and leave.