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THE Lowly Peon


toilet paper 
05 December 2008, 7:44am

lately, i feel like a lot of people have been talking about this whole "coming of age" or "growing up" thing. so many of my friends are talking about having "real jobs" (or, frighteningly, describing them as they would the plague). Lizerbeam owns a house, for god's sake. nellie walks every day to the financial district to do things that lawyers do. kate is some fancy schmancy hoo haa at a nation wide book store. (and somehow, i'm an IT guy working halfway across the world, turning in expense reports and weekly reports and TPS reports...)i feel like perhaps i'm in a different boat, as i always have; but really, maybe that's the whole point — my sophomoric mind is still convinced that i'm as old as i need to be to have the knowledge and wisdom of the world, yet i'm young enough to have hardly experienced anything, and to believe that i'm in a different boat.as most of my rants do, i'll try to covney my meaning by telling a useless story.when i was younger, living at 914, i never bought toilet paper. toilet paper was one of those necessities that was provided to me, and had darn* well be there when i need it. i always felt strange, for some reason, when i had to bring the toilet paper in from the car, in those enormous five zillion "double" roll packs, enough to wipe an army for two terms with bush in office. of course everyone needs it. of course there are seven people in my family (who live proudly by the motto: flush early, flush often). but still. something just felt off.of course if i ever found myself in a — uhh — dire situation, i'd shout at the top of my lungs, hoping one of the other six at 914 would hear my cry and come to my rescue. and then i would curse whoever it was that did not put a backup supply in the second floor bathroom (i understand how silly that is, now, klcomp. you trained me well.)then college came around. here i am, all growing up and such. wearing suit jackets with patches on the elbows, smoking a pipe while talking philosophy, being responsible and all. for the first time, i had to provide for myself. well, i had to take the provisions given to me by my father, and turn that into food to eat, clothes to keep me warm, and, well, toiletries. but that's just the thing. the one thing provided in every [american] public bathroom is that industrial sized uncomfortable roll. no need to go buy any. what's the point?two years later, i moved into an apartment with three of the greatest people ever. we had one bathroom, which surely required the wisdom of our ancestors ("flush early, flush often!"). we had to buy the necessities. we had silverware, plateware, a corkscrew and bottle opener, two stinky washclothes. but we also had one thing that, to this day, made that apartment so livable: a public bathroom just across the way. the four of us had made it our habit to treat TP as a precious resource. we even threw a party when one of us came across a roll or two.next step: china. note, above, that i said all american public bathrooms come well stocked. in china, don't count on it. you always have to be prepared, which is why they make those small tissue packages containing a perfect 4 or 5 sheets. and, they give them to you at restaurants. well, it didn't take long to realize how valuable that was. if we were running low, we knew which restaurants to eat at. no problem.so, for years, i knew this: it was always obtainable, you just had to make a small effort. you had to be constantly aware of it, budget it for the week, take note when you've only got one or two rolls left. you had to work for it.fast forward a few years. i had just gotten off the plane, and i was sitting in my new apartment in houston (eeeh). i have a fancy job, i just got a suit in bangkok and some "nice" clothes with my mommy. i set up my stereo, my computer (the essentials), and had a bite to eat. and then it struck me. i'm in the "real world" now. i have a "real job". i need to go to the store and get the "real" necessities.it was a depressing time for me. i remember the time i bought my first roll of toilet paper. it was a sign, to me, of really being an adult. it kind of scared me, but was kind of invigorating at the same time. at last, i was in a situation to get a twice-monthly supply. i never had to worry about not having enough, or where i could cheat a free roll. it was like some kind of salary or something...a few months later, a new man, i moved to hangzhou. now, not only am i a business man, but i'm a traveling business man. and what do i see in that little cabinet near those slippers? that's right. must have been a half year supply of the good stuff. and every few days here at work, someone comes into my office, a little nervous about the tall white guy, and hands me two rolls of toilet paper. darn* it feels good in the real world!

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Benji!

[05 December 2008]

"or, frighteningly, describing them as they would the plague"

Was that aimed at me? ;)