Before you let your mind stray too far at the title of this week's column let me set you at ease. This week's story is about an act of kindness from a stranger. In fact, I have no idea at all who did this kindness for me.
Let me start at the beginning, my wife Mary asked if I would pick up some things from the store. Her list included red grapes, things to fix for breakfast, and toilet paper. All good things a person should have in case of an emergency. You know the kind of emergency when the hungry comes over you and you want a chocolate chip cookie or a Twinkie and you know healthy red grapes are better for you. Or, what to have for the Breakfast of Champions the next day, even if your champion days are in the past. Last but not least, toilet paper-I'll let you figure that one out on your own.
When I came to the display of toilet paper I was puzzled as to which paper to choose. Soft and absorbent or gentle to your skin and kind to the environment. All good things. Then there is the important question of price. Every good shopper needs to compare price with quality within the package. After all, that is all you really get to decide first hand by reading the label. Unless you are one of those shoppers who pokes their finger into the package to feel the softness of the paper. Warning: Beware of paper pokers!
As I stood looking at the paper, I wanted to be cool and not appear like I was looking at the toilet paper. I am not one of those shoppers who does a walk by grab of whatever is closest, so not to be seen in the aisle of personal products. But, yet I wanted not to tarry long in front of the display of Angel Soft. After all, we each need the product, yet we seldom talk about or like being seen buying it. I guess we are self-conscious of someone knowing we answer nature's call. Just not cool I guess.
Let me wipe the slate clean and tell you a little about toilet paper and its history before I continue my story. Before soft paper, grass, leaves, clam shells, and stones were used. As you might imagine, none of these came on a roll or were angel soft. The first use of paper was believed to be in the 14th century when a Chinese emperor wanted to clean up his act. He had personal paper created in two by three feet sections. You have to remember they had a lot of roughage in their diets nearly 700 years ago.
Sears and Roebuck catalogues not only brought to the public the ability to mail order many things, it gave you something to read while waiting for nature to call. After taking care of business you could take care of your business with a page from the shoe section. The Farmer's Almanac of the time was made with a hole in them so they could be hung in the outhouse. What will they think of next?
In 1857, sheets of paper were first packaged and advertised as medicated paper. Later in 1880, perforated paper was sold on a roll and introduced to the public. Unfortunately it was not until 1935, when toilet paper could be advertised as a splinter free product. Before that it was a prickly subject for its users.
Do you know that in 1973 we experienced a toilet paper shortage in this country? It is true. It started when a congressman believed if the government did not get its bidding process in place and renew the toilet paper contract, it would run short of its supply in a few months. Johnny Carson's staff writers picked up on this and included a joke that toilet paper, according to a government source, was in short supply. Next day store shelves were wiped clean. The whole supply of toilet paper in the country was flushed away over night. It took several weeks for the supply shortage to get back to normal. I'll bet catalogs were in high demand and corn futures soared, or at least the cobs futures were bright. If you remember, that was about the same time we experienced the great oil shortage. We sat in long lines to get gas to fill our cars, but I don't remember waiting in line at pay toilets for free paper.
Why all the fuss about toilet paper? No real reason, I just want to clean up the facts before I tell you about my Charmin kindness at the store. As I looked at the many different brands for sale I noticed a 25-cent coupon laying on a package of Charmin. I realized a nice person had left it there for someone to use. Someone like me. After all, 25-cents saved is 25-cents earned. I could go home and tell my wife I cleaned up at the store with a free coupon.
I don't know who the person was that left it there for me to find, but I want them to know I appreciate their kindness and may all their papers be skin soft and splinter free. I decided that I will leave a Charmin coupon on the toilet paper display for someone to use. I guess you could say I am paying it forward. Who knows, it might help some person who just has to go and I won't be looking Through the Lens.