COLUMNS

Just Thinking: Jumbo rolls of toilet paper have giant drawback

Margo Bartlett
Guest columnist

I’m not here to talk about toilet paper, shortage of.

I skipped that chapter of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic out of sheer stubbornness. I refused to be waiting when a store opened, poised to sprint directly to bathroom tissue, hoping to grab few rolls from the hands of overnight stock people.

As I did other shopping, I didn’t turn my cart into that aisle or even glance in its direction. I would not join the Great Toilet Paper Rush of 2020, even if I was reduced to ripping up a flannel bed sheet and arranging the pieces in a decorative bowl in the bathroom.

Margo Bartlett

Fortunately for my sheets and the wastewater plant, I had enough of the necessary on hand to plod along as usual until we all recovered from early pandemic panic and returned to buying bathroom tissue the way we buy wine: before we run out, but not so far before or in such quantities as to make the neighbors talk.

am here to talk about toilet paper, giant rolls of. Somehow during the past few months, toilet paper manufacturers underwent a profound philosophical transformation. They decided to make their rolls four times larger.

They did it, one toilet paper company says, “for fewer roll changes,” as if changing a toilet paper roll is as laborious as putting chains on an 18-wheeler during a snowstorm. I grant you, there’s a person in every family who appears to think changing a roll is equivalent to reversing the tides, but I doubt making rolls bigger will solve that problem.

Still, the toilet paper people insist that Ganymede-sized rolls were “created to last longer for you and your family.”

Even as I write those words, I can feel my lip curling. Actually, it’s more than curling – it’s snapping up like a window shade. My family and I yearn for many things, but “Oh, for a longer-lasting roll of toilet paper” isn’t one of them.

Call me cynical, but I think jumbo rolls were created to give the toilet paper people something new to advertise. There are only so many ways to rhapsodize about bathroom tissue. Once “soft” and “really soft” have been exhausted, what’s left besides a bear family whose toilet paper obsession is pretty creepy, even for animation?

Therefore, toilet paper makers went with quantity, without acknowledging that bathtub-sized rolls don’t fit on the nation’s toilet paper holders.

Or rather, they’ll fit, thanks to good old American brute force. But once a roll has been jammed into place, the spindle won’t turn and the paper breaks off in confetti-size pieces. At least it does on holders that are bolted to the wall.

Fortunately – and I’m not being smug about this – when my husband and I introduced plumbing to our ancient farmhouse decades ago, we bought a free-standing toilet paper holder for the upstairs bathroom. The new rolls don’t fit in the holder, but they balance on top of it. That’s why all the humongous toilet paper rolls are upstairs, where they can be accommodated. They can’t be accommodated in the downstairs bathroom, which in terms of square feet is considerably smaller than the toilet paper these days.

Another thing. Although the giant rolls might look like regular rolls, only bigger, they’re different in another respect: They have no inner cardboard tube. They’re all paper.

This lack of an inner core is no doubt presented as a plus. But some of us know better. When the paper is reduced to a little nubbin, working with that nubbin is like giving a newborn white mouse a massage. It takes patience, a gentle touch and the discipline not to say oh, for heaven’s sake and throw the mouse, I mean the nubbin, away.

I’ll say this, though. Researching my subject has led me to corners of the internet I never have visited before. For instance, listen to this description of a toilet paper holder:

“Elegance is in the little details that make an experience feel more stylish and just lavish enough ... while also adding a touch of sophistication.”

This about a toilet paper holder. The thing with the spring that goes inside the roll.

And I thought I was bad for not having a silver pattern.

Write to Margo Bartlett at margo.bartlett@gmail.com.