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Alaskan Range: Under Or Over The Roll

"A friend from Texas recently admitted on Facebook to a fetish for having toilet paper dispensed from under the roll rather than over. A Wikipedia article on the subject states, 'Despite its being a trivial topic, people often hold strong opinions on the matter.''

Advice columnist Ann Landers said the subject was the most controversial issue in her column’s history,'' writes columnist and librarian Greg Hill.

It adds, “Celebrities and experts are found on both sides,” but I forwarded my friend an online article titled, “Essential Life Lesson 1: Over is Right, Under is Wrong,” which provides scientific reasoning for its thesis.

In it Chris Rugen offers “a critical but even-handed examination of a common misunderstanding that occurs in a realm of many misunderstandings: the bathroom.”

Rugen notes, “Toilet paper has a natural curve, a way of being, that lends itself to certain orientations on the toilet paper spool,” and he includes illustrations demonstrating how the “over” method provides “the most visible free sheetage.” This enhances his recommended “one-handed tear” for detaching the paper precisely.

Rugen adds, “the natural curve of the over-hung method allows the roll to stand fast after a one-handed tear, but the under-hung method creates a calamitous tendency in the roll” that leads to “wasted paper, frustration, the destruction of forests.”

Moreover, Wikipedia claims, “In surveys of America consumers and of bath and kitchen specialists, 60 (percent) to 70 percent of respondents prefer over.” So there.

I once spoke to the Alaska Library Association about public restroom considerations in “Potty Talk: What They Didn’t Teach in Library School.” Every public librarian knows horror stories about public restrooms, from assaults and vagrancy to alcohol and drugs and vandalism. Restrooms’ innate privacy breeds all sorts of issues, so after some research we remodeled the Noel Wien Library main public restrooms several years ago to deter them.

My “Potty Talk” lecture covered technological advances, like waterless urinals, and described the steps we took here, such as stepping up the lighting, installing timed automatic flushing toilets and faucets, and stainless steel stalls that can be unlocked from the outside.

We didn’t try the expensive rapid-deteriorating toilet paper that’s nearly impossible for vandals to stop up toilets with, but we did get another innovation: the Dyson Air Blade.

Instead of roaring away futilely dehydrating the wetness, air blades use warm air to blow the water off of freshly washed hands. Only hands can fit inside the air blade, and it stops running when they’re removed, unlike the old blowers that seemingly ran forever and could be swiveled to blow-dry other parts of their bodies.

Now fewer library visitors attempt full-body bathing, and their attendant puddles, and we’re saving 80 percent on electricity. And most importantly, security issues in our library’s restrooms have dropped 90 percent to 95 percent.

It’s become a Hill family tradition when traveling to report back on how well our accommodations folded their toilet paper. Invariably the paper’s folded, but is the point off-center? Does it go beyond the typical V-point into origami?

A blog article titled “The Mysterious ‘V’ in My Hotel Room” cites Susan Blackmore, a “British science writer,” who says, “toilet paper folding has become a world-wide phenomenon, not just in fancy places.”

The folded toilet paper fad has spread to even the remotest parts of the globe. Happily, a 70-year old Japanese “car brake parts recycler” recently invented the “Meruboa,” a toilet paper dispenser that includes a lever that folds “the last paper patch into a perfect triangle for the next use.”

Sales of the Meruboa are booming and his company expects revenue to reach 1 billion yen. After all “The use of the toilet transcends all race, religion, age and social class,” Morna Gregory writes in “Toilets of the World,” an entertaining reference book.

Gregory notes, “each and everyone of us bows to the basics of bodily function,” and when the need arises while visiting the library, you’ll find cleaner, safer main restrooms, separate ones for kiddies, and wheel-chair accessible “family restrooms” that can contain an adult and several small children.

For as Jessica Savitch put it, “The code of the road is, if there’s anything to eat, eat; if there’s a place to sit, sit; if there’s a restroom, go.”


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