Toilet paper usage is a highly under-discussed philosophical issue that I have decided to bring to the forefront of our TMI Thursday work.
Over or Under?
I find this issue to be important enough that I will refrain from my usual joking around, and play this completely straight. With that in mind, let us proceed.
A quote from Wikipedia:
Although paper had been known as a wrapping and padding material in China since the 2nd century BC, the first use of toilet paper in human history dates back to the 6th century AD, in early medieval China. In 589 AD the scholar-official Yan Zhitui (531–591) wrote about the use of toilet paper:
“Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes”.
Wealthy people used wool, lace or hemp for their ablutions, while less wealthy people used their hand when defecating into rivers, or cleaned themselves with various materials such as rags, wood shavings, leaves, grass, hay, stone, sand, moss, water, snow, maize husks, fruit skins, or seashells, and corn cobs, depending upon the country and weather conditions or social customs. In Ancient Rome, a sponge on a stick was commonly used, and, after usage, placed back in a bucket of saltwater.
Uhhhhh can we say OOOOOUUUUUCCCCHHHH??? Stone?? Sand??? Wood shavings? Good lord. My ass can’t even handle the single ply stuff, let alone one of those things. I can’t even imagine.
“Hey Bill, gotta shit. Looks like the bathroom is out of rocks. You mind grabbing a handful of pebbles for me on your way in?”
Oh wait, I was supposed to play this blog entry “straight” – sorry about that.
Where was I?
Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that I faced a philosophical issue when I was on my trip to London recently.
Wait wait wait. Hold on. I’m getting way ahead of myself. Let me take a step back again.
So, let’s talk shit basics.
Step 1: Pull down your pants/underwear
Step 2: Sit on the toilet – preferably with the seat down
Step 3: Flex the muscles that control your anal sphincter
Step 4: Do a crossword puzzle, read a magazine, etc
Step 5: Shit magically drops out of your butt-hole and into the toilet
Step 6: Grab some toilet paper and wipe
Step 7: Repeat step 6 until no more shit is left
Step 8: Flush
(and no, we are not going to talk about the philosophy of the courtesy flush. This is an entry about TP – let’s give it the time it deserves. Ok??)
So, let’s examine step 6 & 7.
My question is: how much toilet paper do you take when you wipe your ass?
My answer is: it’s different every time.
I mean, depending on the consistency and quantity of crap, it all varies. At first I grab a nice handful and do a scouting run. Depending on the results, I will vary my usage.
- The drippier the result, the more I use, and the more I crumple the TP.
- If the crap is fairly hard, I might not need to wipe again (although I always do, just in case I missed something the first time). In this scenario I usually just use 2-3 squares folded neatly.
We all do this kind of thing. There is really no question about it. In fact, it really sucks when you have to use an alien bathroom and the toilet paper dispenser doesn’t work quite like you want it to. This means you can’t follow your normal TP philosophy. An example is when the toilet paper roller isn’t well oiled and it’s hard to get any more than 1 square at a time.
I f’n hate that.
Or how about when the roller is TOO well oiled, and when you pull off your expected amount, a huge pile of TP forms on the ground, as the roll comes… well….. completely unrolled.
This brings up so many other questions, such as, do I really want to wipe my ass with TP that’s touched the floor in a public bathroom? Probably not…. but I also don’t want to be that guy who leaves a huge pile of TP sitting on the floor. It’s wasteful, it looks nasty, and it’s embarrassing if the guy in the next stall over notices (I mean, who wants to look like they suck at pulling toilet paper off a roll??)
As you can see, I’ve put a lot of thought into this.
Anyway, it might be time for me to get to my point….
Recently, I took a trip to London. On that trip, I learned that public bathrooms in that city are fantastic. Clean and well maintained. In fact, some of the bathrooms in the malls there were treated better than the one I use at work! It was fantabulistically grand.
Except for 1 thing
The toilet paper dispensers were all fucked up.
While everything was normal in my hotel room, in public areas, they all had the same kind of toilet paper dispenser. And they all did the same god-damn thing.
They rationed toilet paper.
Apparently there must be a shortage of toilet paper in the UK, because these fuckers were calibrated exactly the same. When you grab some TP from the dispenser, it will only give you 2 sheets of toilet paper, with exactly 2 squares each. You see, there’s no roll, just a big pile of pre-sized TP sheets.
What the hell??
Did someone decide that we’re not smart enough to decide how much toilet paper is appropriate for our own ass? How did they decide that this was the perfect amount of TP for each wipe??
I’m sorry, but 1 size does not fit all!!
Let’s consider this for a moment. By controlling the serving size of the TP, they have actually altered the physics of wiping.
Really? C’mon. It’s just toilet paper. How can you start bringing up lofty topics like physics when talking about wiping your ass?
Because if there were a Journal of the Physics of Ass-Wiping, I would be the editor. You see, it is physically impossible to create an effective crumpled ball of toilet paper from separate sheets containing only 2 squares. If you are REALLY bored and want to know the science behind this, go here.
Oh whatEVER. Suck it up buddy and wipe your ass.
Shut up and pay attention.
You see, your options are pretty much limited to the “fold and wipe” when you only have 2 squares to work with. This is a problem when you are traveling long distances overseas and your digestive system is unhappy with the overall situation. Why? Because it could mean that your ass is a wee bit more drippy than usual. Or a LOT more drippy than usual. Or just a freakin’ faucet.
So?? It’s not like you’ve never encountered that problem before. Quit your complaining and wipe your ass like a man.
You aren’t paying attention. Stay with me here.
So, wet shit soaks through thin sheets of TP, which is why the crumple works so well. By crumpling the TP you increase surface area, as well as the distance between your hand and your shit. These are 2 very important concepts, because……
When you can’t do the crumple effectively, you know what you get?
SHIT ALL OVER YOUR HAND.
Or in this case, shit all over my hand.
This is not exactly a preferred result of ass wiping.
Oh stop, why can’t you put together a whole bunch of those sheets and form a nice crumpled ball?
Physics my dear inner-voice, physics. It’s because the sheets aren’t connected.
In order to form an effective crumple ball, you need at least 5-8 sheets. When the sheets aren’t connected, and you crumple them up, it doesn’t guarantee they are going to stay together. It’s not like they’re glued together. No, you see, it takes very little force to jiggle 1 or 5 of those single serving sheets free from the crumple ball. And when I say “very little force,” things such as gravity, or a slight northeast breeze on the western plains of Mongolia, are enough to jiggle things free.
What does that mean?
MORE SHIT ON MY HANDS.
and even worse?
A shit covered piece of toilet paper sitting on my lap.
When visiting London, there were many cultural differences that I observed, but it was the variance in their ass-wiping philosophy that was the most shocking.
After a week, I was finally able to identify the driver of the philosophical difference: diet
The lack of fiber in the British diet eventually made me super-constipated. Hard shit means less toilet paper usage.
I guess that explains why the British always have pained looks on their faces.