From the Notebook of R.B. Ripley: Wherein I Learn I’ve Deeply Undervalued the Toilet Paper Decision
Like the coat of fur we shed while still in the womb or our useless pinky toe, my (roughly) bi-annual trip to Costco is a vestigal response from early-life inculcation into Consumerism whose commandments include such hits as More for Less Is Always Better and My Actions Don’t Affect Others.
Fortunately, I’ve managed to eradicate much of this destructive teaching over the years, but alas, there are still times when the logic switch in my brain short-circuits. And when I find myself in the bacchanalian carnival of rapacious consumption known as Costco, the war that rages in my mind is all-consuming:
ME 1: Yes, I know someone was paid only seventy-six cents an hour working in indescribably bad conditions to make this thing I’m buying that will wind up in a landfill within 60 days.
ME 2: But it’s SUCH A GOOD DEAL!
You can smell the stench of self-loathing, guilt, and contradiction rising from my clammy skin. A smell you’d have gagged on if you were standing next to me today in Costco as I struggled to choose a 36-pack of toilet paper. I was jolted out of my mental paralysis by a middle-aged couple that had stopped next to me. The husband turned to his wife and said, I kid you not:
HUSBAND: They have Quilted Northern, which I love. It’s so soft and feels great. I really, really love it.
ME (in my head): This man is talking in emotional terms about a product on which he will WIPE THE FECES FROM HIS ASS.
Rather than succumb to the overwhelming desire to suffocate him with a roll of his beloved Quilted Northern, I instead challenged myself to set judgment aside and consider that perhaps my own criteria for toilet paper selection (made from recycled paper; breaks down easily) was the flawed one.
Summoning Reason, I admitted I’d never really considered that other qualities, such as softness, might be important enough to dictate my selection (perhaps this is because even the roughest stuff I’ve ever used still did the trick; the poop was gone and I experienced no chafing, flaying, or bleeding).
So I stood quietly in Costco, listening intently, hoping for a new perspective on toilet paper. Keep in mind these were all adults that appeared to be over 30:
WOMAN: “Marathon [brand] has so much more plies and is softer. I know. Believe me. You don’t want the other kind. It’s horrible. Just horrible. It’s one of the worst things in the world.
MAN: “Get the other kind. This one gives me burns on my ass like fire.”
WOMAN: “The Quilted Northern is much better than the other. It’s scientifically proven.”
MAN: “I’ve tried every single brand and this is by far the best.”
WOMAN: “We’ve been married for thirteen years. Why would you even suggest that brand to me? Sometimes you’re an idiot.”
While some of these folks were (hopefully!) speaking in hyperbole, the logic here bears out something quite clearly: We, as a culture, have the time, energy, and financial resources to effectively compare and rank the various papers with which we remove shit from our asses.
In essence we’ve employed the basic scientific method of logic and reason to ensure that only the softest of paper grace our highly sensitive bottoms. We are highly systematic, thoughtful, and logical about this… problem.
But collectively we won’t believe logic and reason proves stem cell research helps cure debilitating diseases? Or explains how humans actually evolved (into the apparent morons we are today)?
This outrageous and unacceptable embarrassment – that we’ll happily exist in a world wherein we can spend time using logic and reason to come to a proven conclusion about toilet paper but not on those things which bring true understanding and insight or alleviate suffering for others – is one of the most fundamental problems our society faces. It is unconscionable that logic and reason are regularly subjugated to that which cannot be proven. My recent Costco experience was nothing more than a not so gentle reminder of this.
For those of you who are wondering, I bought the 36-pack Quilted Northern. Now I’m home and anxiously anticipating my next bowel movement to see if I, too, will fall in love with the softness of Quilted Northern on my bottom.
I hope so, or I may have to rethink the idea once and for all that more is always better.