This Issue Of The Toilet Tissue

During the holiday weekend of Thanksgiving here in America, there’s a lot of visiting and communing and talking and eating and drinking. It follows, of course, that a visit to the bathrooms at the homes of friends and relatives is inevitable. As Newton implied in the 17th century, for every input, there is an equal and opposite output.

I’ll confess, however, that I like to sneak a visit into people’s bathrooms anyway—even when I don’t really have to go.

A bathroom with just a Vaseline jar, a toothbrush, a mint dental floss and a soap on the counter hints at minimalist occupants. They watch CNN in silence. Their cars may need to be towed to Goodwill. They eat the same cereal every day. They still have flip phones because they believe that all the new problems of the world exist because phones have become smarter than their owners.

I can step into a bathroom and smell a dysfunctional partnership. For instance, a leaky faucet hints at fault lines in a marriage. The husband believes it’s the wife’s duty to call the plumber. The wife thinks her man needs to bone up and be the plumber, especially when he calls himself an engineer.

On some bathroom counters, I see the dust and puff of Clinique, Revlon, L’Oreal, Max Factor and Pond’s. A low-lying fog of Elle reeks of an owner whose tastes are so elevated that she’s both high-maintenance and high performing.

Of all the giveaways in a bathroom, however, the toilet tissue is like the FirstResponse test. It signals a growing attitude and, maybe, even character. Some people prefer tissue that’s sweet-scented and monogrammed. I think their owners use it to pad and, possibly, pat themselves on the back. Some could care a rat’s ass about tissue: they buy whatever Costco has on sale. Some apply uncommon moderation even to the common issue of ply and, therefore, they opt for paper with a modicum of cushion. But here is the bottom line for all rears of all kinds: No one wants sand paper.

Liberty Mutual Insurance

For the last five days, Kal has been struggling to save a brown spider in her bathroom. Kal didn’t want to kill him. Mo would have killed him.

On some mornings, spiderman clung to the white wall, way above her head, over the mirror, like a symmetrical unfilled rangoli on Diwali morning—all legs out, each one perfectly prone on the white as if one leg whispered to the other, psst, out at sixteenth inch, buddy, and hold, coz Indian beauty’s comin’ in again. On some evenings, spiderman hung on edge, where wall met doorframe, three legs on frame, five on wall; on such days he looked like the real Spiderman, Tobey Macguire, dangling at the edge of the Flatiron building. This morning, however, he was on the floor sometimes with two legs stuck out in a Miley Cyrus routine, and at other times, curled up into a ball pretending to be a pigeon pea.

Fifteen minutes ago, Kal tore open a large white window envelope that had arrived in the mail with papers meant for recycling. She left it open by spiderman. He waited outside the white paper tunnel looking at thebathroom world from his globe. She waited. He waited. Her tea was turning cold but she waited. He waited. She waited. Then, in the flash of a second, when he wasn’t looking through his balled mess, Kal pushed the flap of the envelope under his pea bottom and he rolled in.

Out in the yard she held the envelope against the sun. She, a brown woman on the outer rim of her youth, glad to have saved him, and he, a brown spider on the outer rim of an envelope, giddy and faint over his next reality. Then she shook him out, every part of him, all of his peeing self, on the paving stones by the lawn. She ran back in.

When Kal looked back, he was gone. And on the face of the envelope which she glanced at for the very first time, the words "Liberty Mutual Insurance."