Thursday, May 25, 2006

Taylor and Toilet Paper

The Triumph of Turnip Greens
I caught the last hour of American Idol last night, and I am so glad that Taylor Hicks won the whole shabang. The show was a ridiculous parade of outdated and garish performers such as Dionne Warwick, Prince, and even Burt Bacharach (not sure how to spell that). One of my favorite moments was the shot of David Hasselhoff after it was announced that Taylor had won. Mr. Hasselhoff had tears in his eyes. What a guy! He really really cared! But seriously, I was very happy that the Soul Patrol came through for Taylor- he really is a great performer. Down here in south Alabama people are crazy about him. The local news channels play his performances and I've seen billboards and store marquees that proudly support Alabama's newest favorite son. My favorite reference to Taylor on a sign so far was on a church marquee: “ We're on a soul patrol, How's yours?” That is hilarious. Way to capitalize on pop culture, whatever church that was. Church marquees in the south...fodder a-plenty for another day's post.

Using the Facilities
My next subject is that of public restrooms. I guess I've spent a lot of time in them lately because my bladder is in overdrive thanks to the wee infant ever growing inside me. It has made me think about all the restrooms I've taken advantage of, all over the world, from Italy to Kazakhstan to the local BP. I would like to expound on some of the worst trials to be found in some of these potty places. The origin of many trials is the little roll of toilet paper you hope to find sitting beside you.

The Elusive TP
Of course if there is no toilet paper, or if you find that you need more than is available, this can be a major source of consternation. In this situation you can only hope that the friendly bathroom goer in the next stall will hand you some from her roll. There is a Seinfeld episode where Elaine tries to get the lady next to her to hand her some, and the lady flatly refuses. It is a brilliantly shot piece – all you see are the two ladies' shoes and Elaine's hand gesturing frantically under the stall as she tries to convince the lady to share. Very tastefully done. An example of non-tastefully done would be the scene with Ben Stiller in the mostly stupid movie Along Came Polly. He ran out of toilet paper in Polly's bathroom after eating spicy food and the results were not pretty.

The Stingy Roll
This is one of the worst. You reach for the roll hopefully and begin the rolling process, hoping for a nice handful of the one-cell-thick TP that most ladies' rooms offer, when you find that you are utterly rejected. Your rolling is rebuffed and you end up with one or two squares. Staring at your hand in unbelief, you try again. Twenty or thirty minutes later, you have enough for the successful conclusion of your “business.” For whatever reason, I suppose to save money on tp, the proprietor of the business whose restroom it is has installed a roll that only releases a certain amount of tp at a time. It should be against the law. And it's not like it keeps you from using the normal amount of toilet paper, it just takes three times as long to get it off the roll.

The Roll that Won't Roll
The Roll that Won't Roll is one of the most severe tests of the human will. It is similar to the Stingy Roll, but more time consuming and therefore, more frustrating. This is the roll that for some reason does not roll, either because it was poorly manufactured, broken or incorrectly installed. Another explanation is that the toilet paper roll inserted is too big for the holder, allowing no room for rolling. You give it a try, and end up with a mere fragment of toilet paper. Not even a square. Maybe a strip pulled from one side, but more likely, a piece the size of a quarter. So you have to forcibly turn the roll while gently, ever so gently, applying a gentle pulling with your other hand. This is a delicate process requiring nerves of steel and a high level of dexterity. Required time for accumulating a sufficient amount of precious toilet paper: 30-40 minutes.

The Runaway Roll
The Runaway Roll can be a nightmare. Again you reach for the roll. As you pull on the toilet paper the cover of its' monster-sized container flies off and the roll, which is the size of a truck tire plummets to the floor and begins to roll and unroll, heading toward the nearest exit. This is when the fight or flight instinct kicks in for you. (The roll's similar instincts have already been exhibited.) You scramble to grab the roll before it's out of reach. If you happen to get a hold of it, the purification process must begin. This means ridding the roll of the parts that touched the probably not sanitary restroom floor. In some restrooms this is hopeless. In others, you might have a fighting chance. However, if you don't get a hold of the runaway roll, once again you find yourself at the mercy of the other restroom goers. If it's a one seater, you're going to have to go into survival mode.

The Stringy TP
This species of TP can be as frustrating as the Stingy Roll. Interesting, because the only difference is the letter “R” found in Stringy. This is probably due to the fact that when I face the Stringy TP I shout derisively to the TP gods, “ this is ridiculous!” This type of tp is usually the truck tire variety, which is more narrow than a normal roll. When you pull the exposed tail to gather a handful, it curls up into a string like consistency, necessitating the pulling of massive quantities in order to achieve enough surface area to finish your “ business.”

TP that is not TP
Entries in this category usually occur overseas, in distant locales where the food and water wreak havoc with your usually placid digestive system. Places such as Kazakhstan, a lovely country located in central Asia. We were told to pack our own toilet paper. This came in handy in our living quarters, and out in public those small pocket packs of Kleenex were lifesavers. Literally. Usually what you would find in these “squatty potties” as they are called, would be a) nothing b) some sort of recycled paper you could buy for pocket change or c)newspaper. I don't think I need to go into detail about the brutal effects of using newspaper when concluding your “business.” I prefer other ways of recycling newspapers. But, desperate times call for desperate measures.

TP that is not TP that you have to pay for
This was mentioned in the above paragraph. Across the lovely continent of Europe, and in Kazakhstan, I gratefully (in most cases) purchased many squares of brown, scratchy paper that served as toilet paper.
Writing this has called to memory some excellent tales of foreign restrooms. Maybe I will share them in part two of Using the Facilities. Stay on the edge of your seats. And I'm referring of course to your non-toilet seats.

Other Restroom Hazards
The Sliding Toilet Seat- Danger, Danger, Aviso! Achtung!

The Door That Won't Stay Locked or Shut- Requiring a lack of modesty or a long arm

The Toilet That Won't Flush- a good idea would be to always carry a small sign reading OUT OF ORDER and some tape so you can warn people that the toilet you just used will not flush...and what's with those sensor activated toilets? They toy with me.

The Attack Faucet- hello water pressure, goodbye dry clothes

The Tricky Paper Towel Dispenser- carefully now, don't let it get your fingers

Anyway, it's a wonder we're all still alive and sane. So keep your Kleenex packs and OUT OF ORDER signs handy and happy restrooming. ( I would personally prefer mushrooming.)