Have you ever stood up in the WC after using toilet paper and found it still cloven onto you or into you as the case may be, lodged betwixt your two degrees of separation?
Somewhere along my genetic history, I have attained this uncanny ability to pick up paper with my buns and so has, I found upon inquiry, one of my sisters. My other sister was struck dumb when we inquired whether she had inherited this family trait. Her eyes narrowed as she waited for the punchline. When we said we were serious, she said, “NO!” not like NO! in one huff, but in an undulating No-o-o-o-o-o the intonation of which meant I think you both are idiots and now I need to erase the last minute from my memory bank. She beat at her ears to knock the inane question from them. I have not asked my brother. The most opportune moment has not introduced itself yet. Asking my other sister scared me. Knowing my brother, though, he would ask, “What’s toilet paper?”
I wanted to know if this trait is indeed genetic or if my sister and I are savvy mutants who have added a new strand to our DNA, so I researched toilet paper.
When was it invented? My research, all done on the internet so I know it’s valid, stated that in 1391 toilet paper was first produced for the Emperor in two feet by three feet sheets. All sorts of questions came to mind when I read this. Did he use it all at one seating? Was he a prodigious defecator? Did he perhaps use the sheets like a diaper? Did he share with his family? Wife number one, you get five inches, wife number two, you get three inches, wife number three…I could sit here all day pondering. I’m sure you have some ponders of your own.
Common folk like us got to use stones, moss, leaves, corn cobs, sponges, our left hands, and later, the Sears & Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogs. I know my grandparents used the latter in their two-holer, hence the term “Rears and Sorebutts.” I myself have used S & R pages.
Fast forward to 1857 when Joseph Gayetty sold the first factory-made toilet paper in sheets, loose and flat. Knowing that could take up a lot of room on a Costco shelf, on July 25, 1871,Zeth Wheeler put the paper on a roll, and patented it, #117,355 (US). He called it wrapping paper. Evidently, the Victorians had trouble knowing exactly what the proper term for such a product should be. Wouldn’t it be fun to go back in time and see the list of crossed-off possibilities before “wrapping paper” was decided upon?
The next invention, formulated, I’m sure, just to appease my father who allowed us three squares a day, occurred in 1879 when Walter Alcock (What a great name for a guy!) introduced the perforated toilet roll.
Later improvements came with splinter-free toilet paper and two-ply in 1942. Except for the public bathrooms in the University of Nice where I went to school not so long ago. There, the toilet paper was pink, rough as crepe paper, and full of visible splinters.
My research also revealed that an average American uses 57 sheets a day. That makes 20,805 sheets a year. My dad owes me 78,840 sheets for my high school years alone. My sister can do her own math.
So, my googling has informed me that toilet paper has been around longer than my sister and I have. That means our ancestors could have passed our special “pick-me-up” knack on to us. However, we haven’t just stood up with dangling toilet paper wetting the back of our undies and been happy with that. In fact, we have perfected the art in our generation to include toilet seat covers as well.
Now I wonder which one of those ancestors is responsible for the time at an all-day jazz concert I walked down the grandstand stairs in view of 10,000 people, all the way to the third seat from the bottom, with toilet paper dragging behind me, just the way one sees it done in humorous skits. That was when a kind woman, during a quiet moment, yelled, “Ma’am? You have a parade of toilet paper following you.” When it happens to you in real life, it isn’t that funny. I would rather have laid the blame for such a gaff at the feet of Great Aunt Fanny than been mortified on my own behalf.
I understand there are certain establishments where our sisterly talent could make us money, especially if we appeared nightly and in some form of undress. I don’t know about my sister but I just don’t have the stamina anymore for theatrics, so I shall continue to be a rapt audience of one during each of my surprise performances.