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Oregon police ask residents not to call 911 over toilet paper shortages

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The rapidly-spreading coronavirus has launched Oregon into uncharted territory, and with recent orders to stay inside and avoid crowds, it can be difficult to figure out how to solve common problems that could usually be fixed by a simple trip to the store. For those problems, though, one coastal police department is here to say: Calling 911 is not the answer.

The Newport Police Department posted to Facebook on Saturday, begging residents not to call the emergency line if they run out of toilet paper.

“You will survive without our help,” the post said.

The post then went on to explain that if residents do run out of toilet paper, they can get creative, as many people throughout history have done — even using the natural resources that abound in the region.

“Seamen used old rope and anchor lines soaked in salt water,” the police department said. “Ancient Romans used a sea sponge on a stick, also soaked in salt water. We are a coastal town. We have an abundance of salt water. Sea shells were also used.”

The post went on with an impressively long list of alternatives to toilet paper, ranging from the reasonable (cotton balls) to the alarming (corn cobs??).

“Be resourceful. Be patient. There is a TP shortage. This too shall pass,” the post concluded. “Just don’t call 911. We cannot bring you toilet paper.”

The post quickly gained thousands of views, with outlets like CNN sharing it far and wide. But despite their impassioned plea for residents to find other solutions, the Newport Police Department took to Facebook on Monday afternoon to clarify an important point. No one had actually called 911 yet about a lack of toilet paper.

“This is being pro-active and preventative, because we know from experience over the years that people tend to call 911 with the weirdest request. It’s just a matter of time before the TP shortage was one of those weird calls.”

They also urged people to use common sense.

“We did not suggest that anyone using alternative options flush any of it,” the post said. “We assumed that adults have already been educated on what they may and may not flush.”

If you’re one of those unlucky people out of toilet paper, maybe it’s a good time for a trip to the beach — at a socially appropriate distance.
–Jayati Ramakrishnan; 503-221-4320; jramakrishnan@oregonian.com; @JRamakrishnanOR
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