Saturday, February 28, 2009


As I have mentioned before, there is always something interesting (often in that this-is-incredibly-stupid interesting way) in the San Francisco Chronicle. This week the interesting thing was NOT that the Chronicle is losing millions of dollars on publishing their paper, because frankly, who is making money these days in newspaper publishing? The interesting thing was an article on Toilet Paper. Yes, apparently this is important news. Why?

This was critical news because it was a Wednesday (and evidently an excruciatingly slooooow news day) and some ridiculously savvy, quite observant and ran-out-of-ideas reporter determined that what we really wanted to know about was American's penchant for really, really soft white TP. According to the article we LOVE TP. We like to use a lot of it. Double rolls, giant rolls and super giant rolls (which as an aside DO NOT fit in to the recesses in the wall designed for TP in a house built in the 1940's. Strangely, the girth of TP rolls has swelled substantially since this construction period). American wipers prefer their 4x4 paper sheets to be cushiony soft, with lots of air bubbles blown in to them or tiny little quilt patterns impressed in their 400 count softness. TP has gone the way of sheets. No more are the basic sheets good enough for anyone. Cotton count must be extraordinarily high. We love it. We just frickin can't get enough of it.

Don't get me wrong. I am fully ensconced in the camp of liking soft toilet paper. Having lived in a few countries that do not prefer their TP to be soft, I can personally attest to its level importance in daily-life-satisfaction-levels.

While living in Frankfurt, I believed that I had cracked the nut as to why German's are often perceived to be a somewhat gruff and querulous people. After uncovering the crux of the issue, I now submit that they aren't just perceived as being grumpy. They are in fact perpetually irritable. Why? Toilet Paper, of course. Think about it for a minute. Imagine having to wipe the most sensitive parts of your body regularly with little brown pieces of scabrous sandpaper. Now get up every day and put a smile on your face. Not likely. Change the TP, change the attitude.

I have applied this philosophy for other countries as well. Take SE Asia for example. In most remote locations, there is often a lack of TP altogether. What you have are: hole in floor and access to water. Now, while this is not optimal in the western sense, these folks are not surly. They are relaxed. Why? Because of the nice soothing water and the absence of harsh or coarse materials near their privates. Tender treatment = happy people.

And finally, let's talk about Japan. For a big city, Japan is by far one of the cleanest cities to dwell. This goes right down to the toilets. No matter where you are, and this applies to toilets in the subway (Yes, the subway), the toilets are clean. I'm not talking about eat off the floor kinda sanitary, but at least you can always go in and if you can't train your kids to hover effectively or for a long enough period of time, you do not have the immediate problem of getting them to a medical facility for a "silkwood" scrub down. I would rate the TP in Japan at mid-range. Not too soft, not too coarse. It isn't always available in the toilets though. They do, however, often hand you little packages of it as you are walking down the street. Yup, this is considered one of the premier advertising schemes. TP in most months, fans in the summer. So, the paper itself is moderately comfortable, it is provided to you free and the bathrooms are clean. All factors = mainly serene people. (footnote: this does NOT apply to the Japanese folks hanging out in Roppongi on any evening. This is a completely different story for a completely different post)

But, then we get to the US and my argument falls apart. It does not work in the US. If it did, we would be so unbelievably blissful! Someone would need to find a way to tether us all to the ground since our euphoria would be so great we would float away in to the atmosphere. In the US we have access to unbelievable soft wiping materials. Walk in to any grocery store and you will find an entire aisle devoted to singing the praises of no less than 30 brands, makes and styles of TP. It's almost too much to bear. Buying TP is like having to decide on new car options every time you shop. Seat warmers? Auto-defrost? Quilts? Little Bears or little angles? Amazing. US toilet paper is so velvety that there are now commercials dedicated to letting us know that sometimes it's so damn downy that little pieces of it can stick to your ass. In other words, dial down the silkiness a bit and buy OUR product that's still chalk full of heavenly softness, but tough enough that it doesn't leave lint in your crack. But are we a happy people? Nope. We are not. We are an ungrateful complaining sort. "Find and exploit the Negative" - - that's our motto.

Still, I'm leaning towards the hope that my TP philosophy really does work. It's just that as American's we have just gotten WAY too comfortable with all the crap that we've got that we've got nothing to want for. In other words, maybe there's a negative effect in attitude when the TP is just too velvety. You know, the whole "too much of a good thing" adage?? So, I have an idea. Let's borrow some TP from Germany.

That's right. Take all the downy soft quilted triple rolls off the shelf and put in some good old German cheap stuff for about 6 months. Let everyone suffer through a half-year of red irritated butts. This will be the main focus of our lives. When your ass hurts - it's hard to complain about much else. Folks will no longer complain about the economy, the job-less rate, the whole here-we-go-to-hell-in-a-handbasket issues. Newspapers will be filled with stories of ragged sphincters and how to correct the problem. In the meantime markets will correct naturally, chicken little will stop screaming that the sky is falling and the republicans will start to love the democrats (couldn't resist that one). When we put the nice stuff back (having surreptitiously pulled back on the throttle of softness a wee bit)... voila!! Immediate attitude adjustment with in acceptable ranges for countries with soft TP. Moderately soft quilted = calm and contented Americans. Hand me the Nobel.....

p.s. The article was actually about the fact that US toilet paper cannot be made from recycled paper and therefore was a BIG drag on global warming. Softness = lack of rain forests. From now on be informed. Wipe your butts with your own conscience. Not only is it affecting our ability to perform as a contented nation, we're destroying the earth as a result. Crap.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Even though we have only been here one week - I would do anything for German TP ;) China toilets - ho hum! When we have visited Tokyo I will pass comment :)