Facing out or facing in? The age-old question of toilet paper rolls.
I don’t mean to stereotype, but I’ve noticed that women typically put toilet paper on the roll so that it faces in, while men typically do it facing out.
Part of the reason, I think, is the aesthetics/practicality dichotomy. In general, women are more concerned with how things look, while men are more concerned with how things work. Take hand towels, for instance.
Most guys have probably never given much thought to them: Use them to dry your hands, and then hang them on the towel bar. Many women, however, fold hand towels lengthwise in thirds, and then hang them so the edges don’t show.
Same thing with toilet paper: Facing in keeps the end hidden. Aesthetics. Facing out is more practical, though. The end is easy to find, it’s easier to tear and it gives you more control over the tear.
Okay, so you’re either wondering what my point is, or you’re thinking I’ve spent entirely too much time thinking about toilet paper.
The other day, I noticed Jenny had put a new roll on the right way (facing out, in case you were wondering). I noticed because she normally puts it on the wrong way. Since I’ve never mentioned it, I just thought it was noteworthy.
It turns out Jenny is in the group of people who think I’ve spent entirely too much time thinking about toilet paper. You see, she had no idea what I was talking about. She just never paid attention to the direction.
I tried to explain why it matters, the respective merits of either school of thought. Her response?
“It’s toilet paper, Jeff. This is three minutes of our lives we’ll never get back.”
She has quite a way with words.
The whole exchange made me think of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig, which is ironically one of Jenny’s favorite books.
It is the story of Pirsig’s cross-country motorcycle ride with his son and two of his friends. The journey is a metaphor for his own journey of self-discovery and a deeper understanding of the people and world around him.
Close to the beginning of the book, he talks about how his friend, John, is afraid of technology.
He’s fine when it works, but he has problems when it breaks. Even if he can easily fix it himself, he won’t.
That made no sense to Pirsig because, for him, fixing things had a very zen-like quality. Motorcycle maintenance had a calming effect on him. This was why the two had conflicts when Pirsig tried talking about fixing his bike. John didn’t want to hear it.
That’s kind of the same thing that happened with Jenny and the toilet paper. For her, it’s just there, and as far as she’s concerned, the only thing that could improve anything about toilet paper is if toilet paper fairies appeared and changed the roll for you.
It’s neither good nor bad; it’s just something she would prefer to not have to think about.
I prefer to understand how things work, though. Maybe it’s my OCD, but I want to do things in the most sensible and logical way. It’s not that I don’t like aesthetics. In fact, I have a very keen aesthetic eye. It’s just that I don’t see the point in sacrificing functionality for form.
I found this interesting, though, because Jenny generally identifies more with Pirsig, and I generally identify more with John. She’ll change the oil on her bike; but for me, that’s why motorcycle shops exist. It’s never a point of conflict between us, but it’s definitely a difference. On this issue, though, we found our roles reversed.
I walked away from our discussion with an understanding that people can’t be so easily pigeon-holed. We’re far too complex. As with anything in life, for every pattern you find, there are plenty of exceptions.
It’s good that some people don’t like fixing things. This gives the people who do like fixing things more to fix. Individuality creates opportunity. Rather than getting frustrated because people are different, revel in the opportunity it creates.
We can all find zen being ourselves. There’s a place in our world for both aesthetics and functionality and there’s nothing wrong with focusing on whichever you want.
Well, except for toilet paper. If you wouldn’t mind putting the roll facing out, that would be great.
Find The Metro Perspective’s Fan page on Facebook.