The UK is in its second week of official coronavirus lockdown, though society has been collectively shitting the bed for much longer – so surely by now we've all suffered the indignity of venturing out to the supermarket only to be faced with barren shelves.
The stores have attempted to bring some order to the situation – dedicated hours for vulnerable shoppers and key workers, limits on number of customers inside, queues outside and floor markings denoting the two-metre "safe" zone – yet your correspondent was forced to risk life and limb at Sainsbury's last night and can confirm that pasta, bog roll and tinned beans among other unperishables are still as rare as fake tan in a Trump hotel.
Panic buying has become a vicious cycle. Regular, sane people found themselves stung by early adopters, which in turn made them stockpile too. Then there's the strata of society that stumble out of work in the evening and simply have to "make do" with whatever's left, eating out of the freezer week after week.
Impassioned pleas on telly and social media appear to have fallen on deaf ears. One web developer, however, has tried to put some hard numbers beside human selfishness in a bid to break that cycle.
WillWeRunOut launched yesterday to, in its own words, "help people understand how long what they have will last" and was born out of frustration with the climate of fear that has wrecked dinner times and toilet trips for many.
The website is a calculator based on "industry studies, online averages and some 'very serious' testing". WillWeRunOut currently covers essentials like loo roll, pasta and Vulture favourites wine and beer (though we're not sure they're truly essential, just good for the numbing effect). Coffee is "coming soon".
Each section has two to three sliders that can be adjusted accordingly – how many toilet rolls you have, average trips per person per day, and how many people live in your house.
So – sweet baby Jesus – I, for example, only have 75 days left of carefree arse wiping before I have to turn to hard crime. If I didn't have dependents, I could hold out for a whole 225. Your mileage may vary. Beer stocks, on the other hand, will cover Vulture Central's weekly cyber-Wednesday Club tonight since we've long left behind our WeWork with its free beverages in favour of pyjamas in our own front rooms.
For TP in particular, dev Will Hope pulled in data from supermarkets and the "Assessment of normal bowel habits in the general adult population: the Popcol study" paper to get a sense of the "Goldilocks zone for pooping".
Hope said: "We have got to a stage in the country where supermarkets are rationing not only the products on the shelves, but access to their websites in an attempt to provide everyone with access to everyday goods. The elderly are rightfully being allowed in to some shops an hour earlier, just to get what they need to live.
"This site, although a bit of fun, is the best way for me as a member of the locked-down public to get the word out there to calm down and think of each other, before they go and buy eight month's worth of toilet roll, pasta, beer and wine. If this reaches one 'covidiot' and changes their mind, then my work here is done. My advice, do your civic duty, wash your hands, shop online where possible and limit your movement, after that, don't forget to Wipe-Right."
The concern is whether the "covidiots" are able to hear the message from atop their fortresses of toilet paper. Have a play yourselves, and let us know how long you have left until your life looks like a scene from Cormac McCarthy's The Road. ®