Toilet Paper, Piled High

When my nephew Matthew was a toddler, his favorite trick was to find a box of Kleenex and pull every tissue out of it, one at a time. He’d hold each Kleenex above his head, drop it and then collapse in laughter as it floated to the floor. It was so cute no one was willing to stop him. Besides, those Kleenexes weren’t wasted. They could be picked up and stuffed right back into the box. Matthew’s second favorite trick was to sneak into the bathroom and unroll the toilet paper. This wasn’t nearly so cute. If he wasn’t found out in time, he would cram all that paper into the toilet, where it could be retrieved (if, heaven forbid, it hadn’t been flushed) but not reused.

Likewise, I once had a house cat named Gus who believed that a toilet paper spindle—the fuller, the better—was the best toy ever. Thankfully, the mess he made never landed the toilet. And I quickly learned to keep the bathroom door firmly closed.

In the years since Gus passed on, I’ve owned more cats than I can count, but they’ve all lived outside. This includes my current cat, Watson, who comes in the house only if he manages to dart past me while I’m carrying in groceries. I’ve only invited him inside one time, and that was when a mouse squeezed through an opening in my front door and hid under the couch. I wrote a column about how Watson found, killed and ate that mouse and then jumped onto my kitchen counter and began licking a stick of butter.

What I didn’t write about was how Watson also went into the bathroom and unrolled the toilet paper, just like Gus and Matthew used to do.

All of which leads me to the subject of this week’s column: a recent toilet paper surprise, with no children or cats involved. It happened on one of those glorious February days when temperatures reached into the seventies. I like to open my windows on such days so the breeze can help blow winter away. Cross-drafts make most of the interior doors in my house slam shut and they often remain that way for hours at a time.

Imagine my surprise when, not long before dark on one of those warm and windy days, I opened the bathroom door to discover a two foot-high pile of toilet paper on the floor. The bathroom has a west-facing window, which had been wide open for hours. Apparently, a down draft had caught the toilet paper at just the right angle and set it to spinning. Luckily, none of the paper landed in water.

I should interrupt myself here to say that I’m immensely grateful we’ve moved past the Covid toilet paper shortage. These days, we can again choose from multiple brands of one-ply or two-ply or quilted or rippled or extra-soft or extra-strong toilet paper, but I don’t really care about any of those things. All I want is to save time by using quadruple rolls (6=24!) so I don’t have to reload so often.

As bad luck would have it, it was a freshly installed gigantic roll of toilet paper piled on my bathroom floor. I wasn’t about to waste it. Toilet paper may not be scarce these days, but it sure is expensive. First, I tried to roll it back onto the cardboard tube, which proved impossible. Next, I gathered the whole pile into my arms and placed it just-so on top of the toilet tank, but it kept tumbling off. Finally, I tore the paper into manageable pieces and stacked them neatly in an empty shoe box, located conveniently within reach on the bathroom floor.

And I vowed that, in addition to keeping toddlers and cats out of my bathroom, I would see to it that the window was shut tight on days when the wind is blowing.

(March 4, 2023)