Standup comics, at least the good ones, always give me something to think about.  One that I recall was a man talking about being unemployed and having a hard time seeing light at the end of tunnel.  But no matter how bad things were, he always bought the extra soft toilet paper so that he’d always have something good in his life.  I like that.  It also set me to thinking about that common roll of paper that lurks next to toilets across America.

One of the first thing I realized is that while many of us worry about what kind of paper we have, not many of us consider how much time passes per roll.  This may work better if you are single (as you are the only one taking off the roll) but if you take the average package of toilet paper, it contains six rolls.  Figuring a single person uses up a roll every week and a half or two, that comes to just about three months of time per package of toilet paper.  A lot can happen in a quarter of a year.  You could get fired or hired from a job.  Find or lose a boy/girlfriend.  Have a car crash or experience a windfall of cash.  Or absolutely nothing out of the ordinary can happen, but you will still be a little further on down the road.

Then there is the actual function of toilet paper.  It is not exactly something you absolutely must have. But nobody wants to be without it, ever, which makes it almost the exact opposite of taxes, if you will.  And at those awkward times when you find yourself in need but lacking, you always swear to yourself never to be caught with your pants down like that again (couldn’t resist).  But like most things that are important in life, humans usually don’t notice the absence of it until we have a mighty need for that soft square of spiffy scouring power.

Then there is the furtive nature of toilet paper itself.  We all buy it, yet nobody I know actually wants to be seen in the check out line with it.  Not because we are ashamed that we need it; more the idea that someone might notice what kind we are purchasing.  Thus most people take as much care in the selection of the paper they use as they do when selecting clothes for an interview.  We know it is an important decision in so far that if anyone should use your toilet, then they will inwardly judge you not just on how clean your bathroom is but on your paper, and nobody wants to stock the fiberboard that they use at public high schools or airports.  Also, you want something that is both effective and textually pleasing.  This, of course, is a subjective quality and why we have so many different kinds of paper.  And while that is true, there is no hiding the rough stuff, which is an unacknowledged fact—much like stereotypes can be extraordinarily useful, but that is a different post. In fact, some people might consider doing without any paper versus only having the rough stuff, because at least then you can lie and claim you just ran out and apologize profusely.  You feel bad for your friend who has to go without, but now you only appear forgetful as opposed to cheap and tasteless.

Then there is the spool itself.  A fat, new spool makes a person, even if just for an instant, feel good, because the world is ordered as it should be.  Then you start to take lines of paper off that new roll, and before you know it, just like addict, you are halfway through your supply.  At this point, though, you are not concerned; although, you may look under the sink to see if there is another fat roll under there, because you remember the promise you made to yourself, and you are absolutely not going to have to take a shower after using the restroom just so you can clean your backside.  Again though, most people don’t bother, and then in a flash, you are almost down to the end.  At this point, the cardboard tube rattles as it spins, and you know you are in need, and yet few of us do anything about it.  Finally you reach the end of the roll, and the last little bit of paper shreds as it comes off the cardboard, which now looks forlorn and might claim to have “fallen down the stairs” if pressed for why it looked that way.  Then comes the moment of truth.  Do I have more?

Yes, there are a myriad of banal things about toilet paper, but sometimes taking at look at the boring and unassuming is useful, because it is at the end of these things that we are pressed to look at ourselves and go, “Ok.  What now?”