James walked out of the bathroom and plopped back down on the couch. He closed his eyes, rolled his head back and let out an audible sigh. Glancing around the room he couldn’t contain himself anymore. “I can’t believe you have your toilet paper hanging away from the toilet, against the wall.”
The crowded room quieted and collectively focused on James with raised eyebrows frequently dispersed. Tony gave a light chuckle that seemingly dismissed the criticism of his home.
Conversation resumed until James loudly added “Some say there’s no right way to hang it, but that’s just ridiculous.” Then he grabbed the remote and paused the TV.
“Toilet paper is a good mirror of human evolution. Think about it.” James lifted his finger and tapped his temple three times. “We used to use leaves. Or water. Or fruit skins. Or sticks. Or shells. Or sand! Even hands! Corncobs!! But no, now we have this wonderful, comfortable paper that protects those same hands. This is on top of indoor plumbing that flushes, and a sink to wash those – still pretty clean!” James raised his hands and shook them to signal the cleanliness “hands. Then we are spoiled brats and can’t even handle it properly.”
Everyone stared at James, who realized he had their full attention. He took a deep breath and stood up. “At first, toilet paper was only used by wealthy people in China. It could be wool or lace.” James rubbed his hand against his wool sweater, turning as he did so to show the whole room. “And I bet you someone was cleaning it. Think about that. Someone was cleaning their boss’s toilet paper. We would probably be those people and now you can’t even use your own toilet paper properly.”
Tanya, James’ girlfriend, walked in and decided to wait in the back of the room, out of sight.
James was now standing in front of the TV exaggeratingly shaking his head and pouting. “It used to be individual folded sheets piled on top of each other. First, they were huge, like two-foot squares.” He paused and scanned the room, then ran over to grab a newspaper from the foyer and waved it in the air as he went back to the center of the room “or newspaper! Imagine that. Just piling the newspaper up next to the toilet. Doesn’t sound so pleasant does it?”
James crumbled the newspaper into a ball and showed the uncomfortable folded edges to the room. “Although I guess they were at least recycling, right?” Most of the room recoiled in pain. The rest gave quizzical looks to Tony. James laughed.
Tony was smirking and encouragingly nodding, so James continued “Even when it got better… Even when it was widely available… Some T.P. was advertised as ‘splinter free.’ That’s what your great grandparents had to worry about. Splinters.” The audible groans and gasps let James know he still had his audience hooked.
“Then this guy Seth Wheeler – the name is perfect, just wait – Seth Wheeler is the one who put that shit on a roll for wiping shit!” James paused to see only Tony laughing among silence. “I tried to add a joke to my very serious diatribe, and you couldn’t be bothered to laugh… Well, Seth Wheeler – who invented the wheel… of toilet paper!” James grinned proudly and again got only the reliable giggle from Tony. James lightly shook his head and rolled his eyes “But he called it a roll. It’s very disappointing he didn’t capitalize on that marketing opportunity. This is innovation! You’re disrespecting the ingenuity of our forefathers.”
“Some may be thinking ‘well, the ingenuity has continued. What about wet wipes?’ To you I say…” James gave a sharp tilt of his head and rocked his flattened hand from side to side. “Kind of… Yes, that’s a slight improvement but it’s not for everyday use. Maybe this will prove to be another class distinction, but I don’t think the wet wipes are for an everyday situation. You can have them on hand – ha!” This time James got a few chuckles and he smiled. “But only for special… Special isn’t the right word, but… well you get it. If you need wet wipes every day, go see a doctor.”
“And it’s four-ply.” James leaned his head back, rubbed his eyes, and took a deep breath before looking down at Tony “I can’t believe you would invest in four-ply and then disrespect it. You’re like the person who buys a Porsche and parks it in two spaces. But… Wait -” James bit his bottom lip, turned his head, and raised his eyebrows, then suddenly looked forward with wide eyes and an open grin “You’re like the person who buys a Porsche and then tries to drive it on icy, bumpy dirt roads. You might have the right tool, but if you don’t know how to use it you probably don’t deserve it.”
“Now we have the convenience of toilet paper rolls and you can’t respect it enough to hang it properly, leaving all of our ancestors rolling over in their graves.” James started laughing. “You’re one of the people keeping us from the next great evolution. That could be what’s holding us back. People like you who can’t keep up with the times. Once we all know what we’re doing with something is when it finally improves, and I can’t wait to see what the next great toilet paper will be.” Tony started laughing along with a couple others.
“We are at the point in our history where the collective ‘they’ has done everything for you to make your life easier, and you can’t even do this right. I thought I knew you.” James composed himself, crossed his arms, and gave Tony a stern look before shaking his head. “I thought we were friends.”
James paused and looked around the room. Everyone was trading glances looking for the correct reaction. They were silent until Tony resumed his hearty laugh and James did the same. He began to bow, and the rest of the room pretended to be in on the joke by giving him a light golf clap.
James walked back to the couch and sat down next to Tony. As James picked up the remote, he said “but seriously, you also risk touching the wall with the back of your hand. Given the location of said wall, you can imagine the bacteria you touch. Maybe those little bacteria even jump off the wall and onto the paper. Who knows? But why risk it?”
There was a collective groan and a woman James had never met shouted “Why didn’t you just start there?!?”
“I went down a Wikipedia rabbit hole today and spent a lot of time on the history of toilet paper. It felt like I could liven things up around here. But you really should have it rolling outward, just look at the patent. Make Seth Wheeler proud.” James hit play on the remote and both the TV and surrounding conversations resumed.
While James looked for the image of the patent on his phone, Tanya walked up behind the couch and grabbed James’ shoulders. He rolled his head back to look up at her and blushed brightly. She asked “Really James? Splinters?”