Hat on Top, Coat Below


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December 9, 2003

I am thinking about toilet paper. This is probably not the best use of my time, given that I have tasks lists full to overflowing for both work and home. I say probably instead of definitely because it might be a good thing to be distracted for a while from thinking about how one of my new customers wants me to spend hours tweaking printed report formats because they just don’t get the whole viewing it online in real time idea and where I should go to buy Christmas cards tonight given that I’ve left it for so late and all the decent ones are probably gone.

I started thinking about toilet paper because once again the women’s bathroom here at work has two empty cardboard rolls in the holder with a new roll precariously balanced on top, ready to pitch off onto the floor at the slightest provocation. No one puts a fresh roll on when they run out during the day. I used to, because it’s the polite thing to do. The directions on how to work the theft-resistant holder are right in the cupboard above the toilet where the new rolls are kept, and they’re not hard to follow. Back when I was following them, I’d get annoyed whenever I came in and saw someone else hadn’t. What was the matter with these women? Changing toilet paper was beneath them? They were too mechanically disinclined to be able to figure out how even with the directions? I still don’t know, but I don’t get annoyed anymore since I decided to join them. If empty toilet paper rolls weren’t going to be their problem, I wasn’t going to make it mine, either. The cleaning people are the only ones who put new rolls on now.

At home, toilet paper management is pretty much a settled issue. We both replace empty rolls and have agreed that the loose end should hang under the roll rather than over the top. Once in a while I forget that agreement and have to think through how I originally wanted it to come over the top, I don’t remember why, maybe because then I could fold it into a little triangle like they do in hotels or something, and Mr. Karen expressed surprise at that because he would have thought that I wanted it the other way because I grew up with cats, who could more easily roll all the paper off if it went over the top. I know it would be easier to just remember that the loose end goes under, but I have to recall the whole process for some reason.

Once when I was replacing a roll at home (because it’s the polite thing to do) and looking for the end of the roll so I could put it on the right way, I was surprised to find something slick stuck there. I thought it was a coupon, because it looked like the “use now” ones that sometimes get attached to products in the supermarket. But it wasn’t a coupon, it was a quiz. I still haven’t figured out who thought that was a good idea. I don’t want my toilet paper asking me questions, especially if there are no prizes for me if I get the correct answers (and there weren’t; I studied the thing closely to try and figure out what the deal was). I just want to wipe.


A year ago, I was still skiing.

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