Saturday, November 4, 2006

Toilet Paper

Today, I thought I'd talk about one common household item that no one can do without -- toilet paper.

Though the term "toilet paper" is itself a euphemism, one never sees it packaged for sale labeled as such in the United States. This euphemism has its own euphemism, "bathroom tissue". Now, I don't know about you, but I have never once heard of it once referred to in conversation as bathroom tissue. I've heard toilet tissue and TP, but NEVER "bathroom tissue". And I've heard and personally referred to it more bluntly as shit paper and asswipe.

Toilet paper is a relatively modern invention, first coming into use in 1857. Before this, people used a variety of things to wipe themselves with: corncobs, rags, their hands, grass, a sponge on a stick, leaves, newspapers, other types of paper, water, snow, and so on.

Modern toilet paper comes in many grades, from sandpapery "Clint Eastwood" (doesn't take any shit!), to the quilted, pillow soft variety. It comes in perforated rolls of various lengths, with a single sheet being about the size of the palm of an average man's hand.

I don't know who decided what size each sheet would be, but I can't imagine anyone using a single sheet to wipe themselves with -- you might as well use your hands for all the good it would do. I always unroll quite a few sheets, then fold it carefully before using it for its intended purpose. Depending on the "job" I just did, I may repeat this one or more times, until I wipe and the paper is still clean afterwards. My son is a champion toilet paper waster -- he often will use up an entire roll for a single trip to the bathroom.

Some people argue about how toilet paper should be dispensed from the holder, either under the roll or over it. I personally don't care myself. Indeed, most times, I don't even bother putting it into the holder, but just set the rolls on the back of the toilet tank.

When I was in college, most of the bathrooms in the classroom buildings had surplus rolls stacked up everywhere -- on the ledge on top of the mirror in front of the sinks, on the windowsill, and so on. Being on a tight budget when I was in college, I got the bright idea one day to take several rolls home with me to save a bit of money. I brought a garbage bag along with me one day expressly for this purpose. I went into the fine arts building, which at that time of the day was sparsely populated. I went into the men's room and quickly threw several rolls into my bag. I slipped out of the building, thinking I'd gotten away with it, unnoticed. However, halfway across campus a security guard came after me, but was satisfied for me to simply hand the paper back to him. Thinking back, I was fortunate that he didn't decide to make a big deal out of it.

Thoughts? Add any toilet paper anecdotes of your own into the comment box.

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