There I was, standing in the toilet paper aisle in the middle of the night. It had been one of those weeks that felt like a series of tasks you absolutely must get done before they don’t matter anymore. The 10-day forecast had called for rain, which meant that everything took second fiddle to getting the hay up. Breakfast? I’m sure there’s an old bag of peanuts in the tractor. Sleep? Remind me what that is after first cutting is tarped or sold. Laundry? A good shake ought to get most of the dirt from your pockets and cuffs. Toilet paper? Uh oh, Houston. We have a problem.

All my life, I’ve heard, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” Well, that is definitely true when it comes to toilet paper! With the weather forecast continuing to predict gloomy rain, I opted to “borrow” the TP from the shop bathroom, rather than waste valuable tractor time for a shopping trip. That seemed like a great plan — until the shop bathroom ran out also.

Thankfully, my husband keeps an emergency roll in the harrow bed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a full one. The people who calculate such things have determined that the average American uses 57 sheets of toilet paper each day, 8.6 sheets per visit. At that rate, the sad little emergency roll wouldn’t buy us much time.

But the threat of that rainstorm looming in the forecast pushed toilet paper to the far back of our minds, and we continued pressing on to get that hay up green and dry. Coffee, Mountain Dew and sheer determination kept us at it as the nights grew even shorter — but not as short as a roll of toilet paper in the house.

Just like our week, it kept going faster and faster until it ended with unfortunate timing. According to a Cottonelle poll, 72 percent of people prefer to hang toilet paper with the first sheet over the roll, and 28 percent prefer the first sheet under the roll. I am a “sheet over” kind of girl, but at that moment, I wouldn’t have complained about a roll perched precariously on top of the holder. Luckily, my son remembered another partial roll in one of our snowmobiles.

The week’s work sped on, as did the remaining rolls of TP. I remembered with nostalgia the years of large Sears catalogs. Using TP with page numbers might seem redneck to some, but during a ridiculously busy week of harvest, I think it was just old-fashioned genius.

The night finally arrived when even MacGyver would have come up empty. That’s how I found myself staring at an aisle of toilet paper at midnight.

I usually buy my toilet paper at Costco, where my choices are limited to a handful of brands — making it easy to compare prices. Perhaps it was the late hour, or perhaps the lack of sleep, but somehow, standing there, those toilet paper packages seemed especially confusing. How can a person calculate which package is a better deal when a roll isn’t a roll. Some packages boasted “mega-rolls,” “jumbo-rolls” and “1,000 sheet rolls.” Others more simply stated that “12=48,” and “36=72.”

It was obvious I was not going to be able to compare rolls to price shop, but maybe I could calculate it based on the number of sheets. A quick glance at the packages revealed that the number of sheets on various “double-rolls” ranged from 176-352. Lest one spend time calculating the cost per sheet, it is prudent to note that the sheet size can vary between brands by nearly an inch!

I looked around at the packages, all vying to end up in my cart. My brain felt muddled. I stood nearly comatose as the little squirrel in my brain tried to coax the wheel into spinning.

I was just reaching for one package that said 12=48, when I noticed the package beside it boasting 12=54. “What kind of math is this?” the price-shopping part of my brain screamed. That’s when I noticed the single rolls of toilet paper. I may not understand the math behind the cost of toilet paper, but I am really confused with buying a single roll. I may not be able to easily find the better bargain between the 12-pack and the 30-pack, but a single roll? I mean, really, are you trying to quit?

With my brain still muddling through the murky math of double-rolls, I grabbed the big package with the purple — because I liked the color.

As the cashier rang me up, I decided that buying toilet paper ranked as my second favorite domestic duty, falling only slightly behind airing out my husband’s work boots, all the while holding my breath until I pass out from lack of fresh air.

Brianna Walker occasionally writes about the Farmer’s Fate for the Blue Mountain Eagle.


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