Bobbie's Beat: TP or not TP

There will be a few factoids in today’s column you probably would never see in any other publication.  I just found a plastic bag containing two dozen samples of toilet paper (unused). Of course, I sat down, emptied the bag all over my desk and let the memories come flooding back of when my husband, Burt, and I traveled to far corners of the world.

He had never been out of this country and could not get over what “foreigners” considered toilet paper. He started collecting the stuff, which (at that time) ranged from sandpaper to wax paper. In one country, the public bathrooms were unisex, with an elderly lady guarding the door. She charged a few coins before handing you two pieces of what Burt called sandpaper. It certainly was not even close to what we are used to here in America. Maybe if things have changed there will be mail from readers with current information on this scintillating subject.

A California friend, Marion Dee, follows this column and recently sent an article on the history of toilet paper. It’s not exactly a Day Brightener, but I’m sure you will find some of this information fascinating. Here goes.

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  1. The first recorded use of toilet paper was in 6th century China. By the 14th century, the Chinese government was mass producing it.
  2. Packaged toilet paper wasn’t sold in the United States until 1857.
  3. It wasn’t until 1935 that a manufacturer was able to promise splinter-free toilet paper.
  4. Seven percent of Americans admit to stealing rolls of toilet paper in hotels.
  5. Historically, what you use to wipe depends on your income level.
  6. Wealthy Romans used wool soaked in rose water, and French royalty used lace.
  7. Other things that were used before toilet paper include: hay, corncobs, sticks, stones, sand, moss, hemp, wool, fruit peels, sponges, seashells, knotted ropes and broken pottery (ouch).
  8. Around the world, 70 to 75 of people still don’t use toilet paper because it is too expensive and there is not sufficient plumbing.
  9. In many western European countries, bidets are seen as more effective and preferable to toilet paper.
  10. Colored toilet paper was popular in the U.S. until the 1940s.
  11. In 1973, Johnny Carson caused a toilet paper shortage. He said, as a joke, that there was a shortage, which there wasn’t, until everyone believed him and ran out to buy up the supply. It took three weeks for some stores to get more in stock.
  12. When asked what necessity they would bring to a desert island, 49 percent of people said toilet paper before food.

•     •     •

I have included only 12 out of the 37 things on this list, and if you are all that interested, you can probably find out more than you ever wanted to know on the internet. I purposely left out a few that might make you cringe, but I will wind up this subject by disclosing I have two friends who come to my home at least once a week (for different reasons) and are here long enough to use the guest bathroom. These two women have the same first name, do not know one another, have never met, but they know I happen to like the TP roll going over the top, not from (bad pun) the bottom. Both gals also “corner” the TP before they leave my home — just like you see in a hotel bathroom.

I have friends who admit to rearranging the roll of TP in a private home if the roll isn’t going “the right way.” This brings me to No. 33 on the list, which I do not agree with: “If you hang your toilet paper so you can pull it from the bottom, you’re considered more intelligent than someone who pulls it from the top.”

I think this proves you can’t believe everything you find on the internet. Besides, if you hang it under, not over, how the heck can you make a pointy fold on that end piece?

Thanks, Marion Dee, for making our day.


Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock. She is the author of “Good Grief: A Collection of Stories As One Woman Journeys From Heartbreak To Healing Through Honesty and Humor” (Dancing Moon Press). The book (with all proceeds going to Rotary International) is available at JC Market in Newport and directly from Bobbie, who can be contacted at [email protected]

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