A few topics in loo of one big one

I’ve been writing this column for a little over seven years now, so it’s about time I make a very important confession: Sometimes, when I sit down at the computer to write, I have no earthly idea what sort of product I will be producing in the next hour or so.

Usually, after thinking for a few minutes, inspiration strikes. But other times I sit for an hour without any ideas that could possibly fester into a structured, entertaining piece of writing.

This is such a week.

However, I always have a reserve of smaller topics that I collect over a period of time, some of which make it into this column. Most of these subjects come to my mind while sitting in a certain room. And I think you know which room that is.

So in loo of any good column topics, here are a few thoughts on the toilet….

First, let me tell you about my idea on how hotels can lower their expenses.

For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated by the trademark triangle that hotel maids make out of toilet paper. I’m not sure why they do this; perhaps it’s their way of saying, “We were here today.” Or maybe it’s supposed to draw one’s attention to the ground, so that hotel guests will notice that, “Whoa, there’s tile down there!”

At any rate, toilet paper pointing is a timeless tradition.

Several weeks ago—while “waiting for the spirit to move,” if you will—I thought it’d be fun to time myself making that toilet paper triangle.

It took about seven seconds.

A normal person would have lost interest at that point. (Then again, a normal person wouldn’t be timing themselves making toilet paper triangles in the first place.)

I, however, had this sudden moment of brilliance when I realized that if a maid takes seven seconds to make each point, eventually that time usage will show up on the employer’s pay roll.

This inspired several questions:

n How much money could hotel owners save by eliminating the triangle?

n Would this be enough money to benefit said owner?

n Is “pay roll” a toilet paper-related pun?

So I got out a calculator and worked it out.

A small hotel, similar to the one we have in town, holds around 25 rooms, and many hotels that I’ve visited have two rolls of toilet paper per room.

Seven seconds times 25 bathrooms times two triangles equals 350 seconds a day. Do this seven days a week, and that’s about 41 minutes per week that hotel maids would spend making origami toilet paper.

Per week, it’s not that bad. So then I looked at the yearly outcome: A hotel maid would spend a little over 351⁄2 hours per year folding toilet paper.

With the new national minimum wage set at $7.25, a small hotel owner pays about $256.57 annually so that guests will have the honor of unfolding the toilet paper before using it.

Perhaps you think that worrying about the price of toilet paper triangles is inane. If so, then you’re going to love my second thought about inane concerns.

A couple weeks ago, while reading a USA Today in a public restroom, I was distressed to see the front-page, center story, headline shouting that “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul had announced she would not be returning next season.

I mean, this was BIG news. Bigger than the swine flu! Bigger than the national economy! Bigger than Bo the First Family’s new dog!

The last time I checked, “American Idol” has very little effect on any important aspect of our lives. And if it does, then maybe it’s time to seek a good therapist. (And if Dr. Phil is the first person to come to your mind, then you just made my point.)

What made this even more troubling is that Abdul made this announcement on the social networking Web site Twitter.

I mean, come on! Doesn’t anyone have the decency to send a message on Facebook anymore?

But rest assured: For whatever it’s worth, recent unintelligence is reporting that Abdul is now negotiating with ABC, which allows us to move on to my final bathroom thought.

While showering the other day, I noticed that my shampoo has a “new and improved anti-humidity system.”

I’ve see the phrase “new and improved” hundreds of times, but it occurred to me that there is some sort of technical unfeasibility in that message. If something is new, how can it be improved already? And if something is now improved, then the item can’t be new.

That about wraps it up for this column. See how fast you can fold it into a triangle. And then tell me about it on Twitter.

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