REFLECTIONS: The answer to the toilet paper debate

Finally… an answer!

Many years ago I ran a series of columns about one of my many pet peeves.

The subject of the debate … or rather study … centered around a common household product.

The product was toilet paper.   That’s right: TP.

The reason for the discourse was very simple: There’s a RIGHT way to put a roll of toilet paper on a holder.

And there’s the WRONG way.

I have always contended that any fully blooded mostly un-inebriated soul with common sense KNOWS that the right … and ONLY … way to place TP on a holder is so it drapes down OVER the top.

NEVER, for God’s sake, does it ever sneak out from down under!

It’s just not done.  It’s inappropriate. It’s a no-no. It’s just plain sacred.

Over-the-top TP is as American as baseball, Chevrolet and apple pie.

OK. OK.   

I’ll add in Ford and cherry pies. Yeh, yeh, yeh … we’ll throw in Dodge, too, to keep everyone happy.

(NO!  Enough already!  I will NOT add in rhubarb pie … so quit asking!)

This column … and the ones that followed … brought a tirade of comments, both pro and con, which I thought rather titillating.   It even caught the eye of Eppie Lederer (or to the unknown, Ann Landers) who commented that I was ever SO right!

(It probably would have meant more if the comment came from Emily Post — but she died in 1960 so that would have been a bit more awkward to obtain.)

So, in the name of objectivity, I conducted a study.

On a lengthy over the road trip to Arizona, I did a very in-depth analysis of toilet paper hangers …and how they were used.

I’m trying to recall all the sordid details but that WAS some 20 years or so ago … and like the length of a fish and the fish tale … over time items seem to grow appropriately in accordance to the wish of the author.   

Hmmm.

But one thing I do remember:  People think you’re a bit on the strange side when you traipse into a bathroom … check out all the stalls … and wander back out giving a high-five and muttering “Yea!  Three to two my way!”  or “Dammit!  That’s just plain wrong!”

Oh well … the things one will do in the name of scientific research! If I recall correctly, this study was composed of somewhere on the higher end of 700 plus TP holders.

I looked at triple stalls, quadruple stalls, single units, outhouses, picnic and rest stop restrooms and sneaked into various and sundry other receptacles in search of the simple truth.

It was a stinky job…but I knew it had to be done.

I needed closure! I can still recall one tiny out of the way food/gas/general store.   It was on a dirt road in the middle of Nowhere, New Mexico. And the single attendant/owner was this little scrunched up gal who probably didn’t tip the scales at 95 pounds dripping wet. As I recall, she was decked out in one of those granny type dresses with tiny little faded flowers.

Probably pushing 80, she sported this absolutely infectious ear-to-ear smile.   It was just plain radiant!

She said she was filling in for her hubby who had gone out to buy some bird seed.  (Made sense to me … it was scrubland.  Nothing else could grow there.)

I had just been to the restroom.   It was exceptionally neat and tidy … complete with doilies on the back of the tank. I was looking around for the TP holder.   But there wasn’t one.  The TP was in a basket on the floor.  Hmm. And the questions starting fermenting.

So as I was leaving, I asked the little gal about the toilet paper scenario.

“Gotta ask you,” I said.  “Most service stations have a toilet paper holder on the wall.  You keep yours in a basket.  Why?”

“Well,” she replied,  “It’s a long story.

“Many years ago after our kids were gone, me and my husband bought this place for retirement.   Everything was going fine … and it was my job to keep the bathroom clean and neat.  I’d clean it every morning … and every night I’d find something askew … just a bit out of kilter.

“I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what it was when suddenly it struck me right here between the eyes,” she continued, doing an eye point.  “It was the toilet paper!   I would have it all set each morning so it was always hanging down over the top … and each night I’d have to take the roll off the holder, turn it around so it was proper again.

“Anyway,” she said with a smirk, “That stupid toilet paper holder nearly cost me a marriage.   I discovered my husband was turning it around each morning after I left.   We had a huge fight over it … and the following morning when I went to clean the bathroom, the holder was ripped out of the wall … and the basket was sitting on the floor.

“Incidentally,” she added, “if you noticed that flower picture hanging a bit low next to the toilet … that’s covering up the hole where the hanger used to be.   We ‘kinda know it’s there.  It gives us a chance to laugh each time we see it!”

As I left, I couldn’t help chuckling to myself.

Talking with this gal made the whole project worth it!

Anyway, I finally finished my study. Michiganders knew which way is right … as I had suspected.                                                                                                                         

Chicagoans can’t make up their mind: no surprise there.                                                                                                                          

And Westerners were 80-20 on the mark.

Now … the reason why this whole intriguing scientific nonsense floated to the top of my quirky little brain was an email sent to me from a dear Yooper friend Nancy Gregg.

As she noted, it merely confirmed what I already knew: over the top was correct.

Her source of evidence was a copy of US Patent #465588 by B. Wheeler on Dec. 2, 1891, for a toilet paper holder showing (natch) the paper gently cascading OVER THE TOP of said holder.

So Nancy, this column is for you … and for once, all you past doubting Thomases out there…a special raspberry to you!   I KNEW I was right!

I can now put the nefarious mystery of the toilet paper quandary to rest.

It’s finally solved.

And oh yeh, before I forget to tell you: the toilet paper in our downstairs bathroom sits in a basket.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Jack Batdorff is the chairman of the Pioneer Group. Email him at jbatdorff@pioneergroup.com.

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Posted by Jack Batdorff

Jack Batdorff is the chairman of the Pioneer Group. E-mail him at jbatdorff@pioneergroup.com.

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