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Feeling flushed

Hudson Cooper - Columnist
Posted 12/3/20

The pandemic has caused many of us to feel isolated and missing human contact. Simple outings like eating at a restaurant, watching your favorite team on television at a sports bar or dropping in on …

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Feeling flushed


The pandemic has caused many of us to feel isolated and missing human contact. Simple outings like eating at a restaurant, watching your favorite team on television at a sports bar or dropping in on friends have become problematic. We have become overly responsive to rumors that emanate from news broadcasts and word of mouth.

In fact, I had to delay writing this column because I heard, due to the second COVID-19 wave, stores were again running out of paper products. I overly responded to the nearest store to stock up on the big 3 in the world of paper products. I needed to stock up on tissues for my nose, paper towels for cleaning and of course toilet paper for, well, you know what.

In the parking lot I donned my mask, grabbed a big shopping cart and entered. Panic set in when I noticed that other shoppers already had their carts loaded with paper goods. A glancing inventory of their purchases brought on a new panic when I noticed none of them had familiar brand names.

I realized that I missed out on “the quicker picker upper,” “the toilet paper you were asked not to squeeze” and Kleenex which long ago became the name for tissues. I advanced to the paper goods aisle bent on buying anything that will do the required task.

I froze at the end of the aisle. All that remained on the shelves were empty cardboard cartons. Everything, brand names or not, was wiped out. Soon I was back in my car headed to the nearest food store hoping to have better luck. Once there reality set in. Hoarders had wiped out everything.

Once home I did a situation assessment of my paper products supply. I took inventory of all my paper goods. I had 8 rolls of paper towels, 7 boxes of Kleenex, a package of paper dinner napkins and 11 rolls of 2-ply toilet paper. If the pandemic continued, I wondered if that would be enough.

As I neatly stacked my supply, I began to wonder how the proliferation of these various paper goods evolved. After a brief internet search, I consulted with Graham Halsey who is the spokesman for the Society for the Preservation of Toilet Paper History located ironically in Flushing, NY.

Halsey was eager to provide me with a brief synopsis of the development of toilet paper over the years. Up until the middle of the 19th century, people used a variety of items to clean that nether region. They used handfuls of straw, pine cones and for those who farmed, dried corn cobs were popular. As paper became more available, newspapers, magazines and catalogs became the material of choice.

All that began to change in 1857 when Joseph Gayetty began producing a hemp product he called “medicated paper” to be used in the bathroom. He was so proud of his accomplishment that he had his name printed on every sheet. I wonder if a husband in the bathroom opened the door and said to their wife “Honey can you hand me another sheet of Gayetty?” Americans stopped using the sheet when Seth Wheeler in 1891 invented the toilet paper roll.

Halsey then rambled on telling me that the Scott brothers introduced the first paper towels in 1891 helping housewives replace kitchen rags with a healthier disposable towel. Facial tissues were first made in 1924 by the Kimberly-Clark company using the name Kleenex for their product.

Once home I wondered if there was a way to make my stockpile of paper products last longer. For starters, I took a roll of 2-ply toilet paper and by hand began dividing each ply into a separate roll. It was a slow and tedious process.

So, I cranked up my Commodore 64 and found that somebody had made a simple machine to separate toilet paper into two 1-ply rolls. If you are so inclined, you can see it in action at awesomejelly.com/toilet-paper-splitting. One thing it proves, we have too much time on our hands while self-quarantining.

Do we really need all these types of paper products for the home? Here is my solution. Produce something called UPP which is short for Universal Paper Product. It is a perforated roll that combines the texture, strength and disposability of tissues, paper towels and toilet paper. Expanding the concept of select-a-size from paper towels, the UPP sheet can be torn into the various sizes as needed. Once used you can dispose of the sheet by flushing or tossing it into a garbage can depending on how it was used.

If my idea catches on, I hope the manufacturer rewards me with some compensation. However, you are on notice that I have already trademarked the name Klean-Upps.


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