Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures, and that’s precisely how we as a society end up with something like How Much Toilet Paper?!, a new website that calculates the dwindling amount of our most prized bathroom supply.
It’s a relatively simple tool: you put in the number of rolls you have left and the number of toilet visits you estimate you take per day, and it spits out a nice whole number at the top of the screen. So 10 rolls left at three visits per day (the default for the website when you visit it for the first time) equates to 53 days. That’s plenty of toilet paper, you’d think.
But there are advanced options for taking into account more granular metrics, like the number of people in the household and number of sheets on the roll of whatever brand of toilet paper you have. The result is a fun, if not tad dystopian, tool for figuring out how long you’re stash will last if coronavirus-related lockdowns around the world stay in effect for weeks to months.
The site was put together by two London-based residents, software developer Ben Sassoon and artist Sam Harris, who made it quickly as a source for some “light-hearted humour.” But it fast grew into “a tool that can educate the masses and help reduce the stockpiling issues going on around the world,” Sassoon tells The Verge over email.
“We went from idea to deployment in less than three hours. The site has definitely gone through a lot of changes since the first version, but it just proves the power of the internet,” he adds. “You can go from idea to viral in hours or even minutes. We are currently at around 2 million viewers in just four days. It’s beyond anything I’ve experienced before.”
Sassoon says he and Harris hope the site will help people wake up to the dangers of hoarding in a crisis. “Our average user has 500% more toilet paper than they would need in a potential quarantine. We are hoping that people will use the site and see they don’t need to go out and empty the shelves,” he says.
Another silver lining to the novel coronavirus pandemic is that creatives like Sassoon, who is currently self-isolating with a dwindling amount of toilet paper that his calculator estimates will last him 14 days (four rolls), are finding ways to keep occupied with projects that, once shared online, can bring the public some much-needed distraction and entertainment. More musicians are now performing live on Twitch after tours were canceled, late-night TV hosts are turning into YouTube vloggers, and US presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders are even pioneering virtual campaign rallies.
“We are experiencing one of the largest social experiments in our generation — almost the entire world is now working from home, and millions of freelancers and service workers have unfortunately become unemployed overnight,” Sassoon says. “It is a strange and upsetting situation, but a lot of people suddenly have a lot more time on their hands — so I wonder what other creatives will come up with.”