The other day I asked my daughter, Clementine, if she would pick up some toilet paper while she was out. Happily she agreed, leaving me free to lazily spend the rest of my afternoon drinking wine and watching Netflix on the couch, all the while smugly congratulating myself on my foresight in having had a child eighteen years ago. At least, I was smug until Clementine came home with the toilet paper. After that, I was worried.
“Is there something you want to tell me?” I asked her.
“No,” she calmly replied. Perhaps too calmly.
“Are you sure,” I pressed. “Did, perhaps, my doctor call? Or your doctor?”
“No,” she said again, not so much calm now as puzzled. “Why?”
“Because,” I said, holding up the four-pack of single-ply toilet paper she had brought home, “I can’t imagine any reason other than my imminent death to explain why you would only buy a four pack of toilet paper. Unless it’s your imminent death, and you’re trying to dilute my future grief by adding in annoyance.”
“You know,” she said. “there are ways to communicate other than sarcasm.” And then she went into her room, where I assumed she mentally slammed the door. (It is impossible to literally slam the door anymore: she slammed it off of its hinges three years ago.) Slamming door or not, her disappearing act left me all alone to ponder the thought processes of someone who would buy a 4-pack of toilet paper for anything other than an overnight camping trip.
It would make sense if I had asked her to spend her own money—in that case I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had returned with a single roll of toilet paper, or even an armful of loose TP she had purloined from the nearest gas station. But I had given her my bankcard, which, in theory, meant that she was free to buy all the toilet paper in the store.
It would also make sense if she had gone to some tiny little convenience store where four-packs were all they offered in the way of toilet paper—and you were glad they did. But I saw the receipt—she had gone to one of those big box stores where they sell soda in 55-gallon drums and toilet paper by the pallet. How she even managed to find a four-pack in a place like that is beyond me.
I suppose I could chalk it up to youthful optimism: the sincere belief that whatever is coming just around the corner is going to be so awesome that it would be foolish to tie yourself down with meaningless material goods. In other words, why buy a giant pack of toilet paper when this time tomorrow you’ll be waking up in Paris? Or better yet, waking up in Paris to the news that scientists have found a way get around the need for anyone to ever need toilet paper ever again. (Perhaps there will be an App for that.)
Or maybe it’s youthful pessimism: the sincere belief that even if we do get to wake up in Paris, it will most likely be a post-apocalyptic Paris where toilet paper will be the least of our concerns. (Although I would argue that after the apocalypse—when all the toilet paper factories are defunct—is especially when we need to be worried about toilet paper.)
Regardless of whether it was a case of youthful “TP roll half full” or “TP roll half empty,” I’m pretty sure that youthful something or other was at the root of such short-sighted thinking. Maybe even something as simple as youthful stupidity.
But then again, that’s probably just the sarcasm talking.