Going to the Bathroom

toiletAlmost 40 years ago, Alice and I purchased 26 acres and a house from her Dad and Uncle. We’ve been working on and living in that house since then. The house came without a solid foundation, was missing windows, had no electricity or plumbing, and had been the local haunted house for many years. We estimate it had been uninhabited for almost 2 decades when we bought it.

Once we got the foundation problem fixed, and enough work done on windows, doors, and minimal insulation, we made the plunge and moved out to our home in the country, intending to continue working on it while we renovated it. Water, we learned, could be carried in, but we desperately needed a bathroom. A call to the local health department got us some good news… outhouses were still in code, as long as they were constructed properly. So armed with the plans, I built the thing inside the house, assembled it outside over the pit I had dug, and we were in business.

At first, we used the toilet-paper-roll-in-the-coffee-can method for storing and making the necessary paper available for users of the facility. Downstate, Alice’s aunt, who had grown up in this same house, got wind that we had moved in and had an outhouse. On a trip up north to visit, she brought us a gift… a small shiny toilet paper dispenser, and a CASE of the toilet paper that folds up interleaved, one sheet into the next. We were grateful beyond words, because money was tight, and we had just been given, as Alice’s Dad had so aptly put it, “enough shit paper for a lifetime.”

Alice’s aunt happened to do custodial work at a school near Detroit, and they had decided to phase out this kind of toilet paper. They threw out all their stock, some of which was salvaged and saved for us. I think I know why that school system decided to phase out this particular type of toilet paper. I can imagine an influential parent or school board member ducking into one of the bathrooms, using some of the paper, then bringing up an issue before the board. You see, this toilet paper was not soft. It was downright scratchy. And we had a case of it.

Alice quickly found excuses for not using this paper. Long after we had indoor plumbing, and despite my gentle hints that it would be a huge blow for the ecology of the planet if we didn’t use up this perfectly useful stuff, she politely refused and standardized on the softer rolled stuff. When Steve came along and became capable of expressing his preferences (I think this capability came pretty early in Steve’s life!) he also declined to indulge in this eco-paper experiment. So it was left to me to use this bonanza.

Fast forward about 40 years, and the picture at the beginning of this post shows the total amount of this paper that is left. One more event in the bathroom, and it will be gone.

Now I can’t help but wonder how my body will react when I start using the softer-than-silk variety that is our current stock. Will I soften to the point that I’ll start buying food instead of growing it? Will I just turn up the thermostat instead of tossing another log on the fire? Will I buy a 4-wheeler so I can make the short trips out on the property? Slippery slopes are like that. Maybe I should check on eBay? I’m sure there are warehouses full of this scratchy stuff out there somewhere. On the other hand, I’ve always wanted a 4-wheeler…

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