Who Needs Toilet Paper – When the Going Gets Tough…

March 23, 2020

How are you holding up with all this pandemic fear?

Mary M., Dublin, OH

Times are tough, but Americans have always been able to take one on the chin and soldier on.

“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no.”

John Blutarsky, Delta house, Faber College

Did Chicago Cubs fans give up, when on 8/8/88, after waiting 118 years for their first night game, it was rained out? Hell no.

Did the castaways give up hope or kill Gilligan, after he, for years, screwed up every solid opportunity to be rescued? Hell no.

Did “Mad” Mike Hughes give up after his first (DIY) rocket launch failed to prove that the earth was flat? Hell no.

Did General Custer give up after the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho gave him a shellacking at Little Big Horn? Oh… uh, ok, bad example. He was dead. The point is, we don’t give up easily.

It is in that spirit that I offer, not more fear, but solutions to the pandemic-related problems we are now facing.

At first I thought food might be the first thing people freak out about during a pandemic, but calmed down when I realized (after looking down) that I can go every bit of THREE WEEKS without food. That’s right 3 weeks. It wouldn’t be easy, but I see a lot of emergency calories walking right there along with me. If I were a tardigrade, I could go millennia without a meal.

Also, consider that there may be things lying around our houses and apartments (like Brussel sprouts) that you didn’t know you can actually eat. We have a fruitcake from 1978 somewhere in the house that I know is still good. Werner Herzog ate his (leather) shoe in 1979 in order to fulfil a promise that he would do so if Errol Morris ever completed the film Gates of Heaven. (Bear in mind that he cooked the hell out of it, seasoned it copiously, and never did eat the sole. Don’t eat the sole. It ain’t that kind of sole.)

But panicky food buying wasn’t the big surprise. The first thing people did when things got real was to hoard toilet paper. Go days without food, but only hours without toilet paper — was apparently the thinking.

But you really don’t even need toilet paper. Outdoorsmen and most people who lived before the mid-19th century know what I’m talking about. (The Chinese were centuries ahead of the rest of the world in this category.) Millions made do.

So, if you can’t seem to find a way to synchronize your bowel movements with your daily shower, here are some tried and true alternatives to toilet paper:

  1. Roman sponges. Ok, these are sea sponges, not dish sponges. The Romans put them on the end of stick, and rinsed them before passing them over to the next guy at the baths. It’s this kind of groundbreaking civility that kept the Roman Empire going for over 1000 years.
  2. A garden hose. Mind your nozzle setting. I recommend leaving some water in the hose and letting it warm up in the sun between uses.
  3. A pond/pool. The pond would be good for you.
  4. A towel. A small towel. Everyone has one nasty bath towel you wouldn’t mind cutting up.
  5. A cat. (This option is self-cleaning.)
  6. Napkins, obviously. (Triage your grandmother’s fine linens for later in the pandemic.)
  7. Leaves. Worked fine for Lewis and Clark, Tarzan, and Jane Goodall when she couldn’t make it back to camp in time. Pass on clover. Think rhubarb.
  8. Corn cobs. This sounds a bit rough, but it actually works. First, cook the corn and eat the kernels. Don’t waste food. Do not let the cob dry out. Use the denuded cob on your denuded butthole in a linear fashion, rotating ¼ turn after each front-to-back stroke. Discard cobs after every use.
  9. Shag carpet. Anyone who has seen a Weimaraner with worms knows that this is an effective method for personal hygiene. Chart your streaks out in a tight-knit, parallel pattern for optimal coverage. Wash rug weekly… at least.
  10. Old time dual shoe cleaner. Place on a chair, and make sure to use the buffer – not the bristle – side.
  11. A (non-public) fountain. Night or private patio use only. We don’t want to look at that.
  12. High-end bidet toilets. I’m talking about those ultra luxury toilets that flush, rinse, dry and summarize the New York Times for you while you sit. They are real and they are fantastic — but expensive. I was at a hotel in Hanoi once that had these things, and I never left the room. I ate oatmeal 3 meals a day for a week. Take that Procter and Gamble!
  13. A river. I don’t necessarily recommend defecating in a river (Save your “what if everybody did it?” emails), but I will remind you of Heraclitis’s (partial) quote, “No man ever steps in the same river twice…”, so there’s that.
  14. Hair dryer and a paint brush. Dry, dust, repeat.
  15. Water ski. When the weather gets warmer, take the ol’ speedboat out, get up on two skis, and do (very) deep knee-bends in the wake. Works wonders. Ask Tommy Bartlett.

I hope these helpful hints ease your mind a bit about shortages.

Everything will work out in the end.