Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bottom Lines

There's no accounting for what will flit through the memory, so I won't bother trying to account for the fact that this image has recently come to mind. Fetched from here via the googles, this is, aside from the word SAMPLE scrawled across it, an exact reproduction of something my grandmother displayed in the bathroom of her home.

For as long as I stared into its failures of visual balance as a child, it never occurred to me until these late recollections to question the meaning. Obviously it is an attempt at a pun on paperwork as toilet paper, but a good pun -- say, a pun successful enough to be reproduced in countless private bathrooms across the United States, or at least granny's -- is one that works on both the level of the ground and of the figure.

Putting aside whether it counts as ground or figure, consider the toilet paper side of the expression. Just what is the subtext of a reminder to wipe one's ass using toilet paper? Does it speak to doubts as to the public acceptance of toilet paper, and seek to allay those doubts? Does it serve to announce an allegiance on a newly-emerging point of hygiene and etiquette -- i.e., "In this house, we wipe with toilet paper after we defecate." If the latter, was the acceptance of toilet paper still a living dispute when I first encountered this image in the 1970s?

Not for me it wasn't. And to this day, it remains a point on which I will accept no compromises. We can go up from here -- perhaps there are ass-freshening technologies waiting to be born -- but not back. Not in this house. And I'm so entrenched in the pro-toilet-paper mindset that I find a notice such as this one superfluous.

That said, there's always a place for irony.


Mike said...

Dale, the Japanese have been working on such technologies. The results,however,haven't met with universal approval. I refer to a London Times article from May.

Mike said...

hmmm....i'm not sure that worked.
try this one.

Ian McCullough said...

Dale, I think the message is actually anti-bureaucracy. The subtext is obviously that the paperwork you do at work is suitable for wiping feces off your anus and discarding into a sewer. Let's face it - your important finishing paperwork on the job has about as much chance of being read as our used toilet paper.
Your granny was probably a big fan of Fritz Lang and George Orwell given her skepticism about modern society.

Dale said...

Ian, you might be onto something. Granny was always full of surprises.

Mike, call me stubborn, but I'm content to let the Japanese fool-proof those novel approaches for a while.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

I think I'm following the idea here. One question however; why is that baby about to wipe his backside using billiard-table felt?

I'll bet it feels luxurious, but the absorbency probably isn't the best.

Actually, two questions: where can I get a roll of that stuff?

Dale said...

SJKP, good question. My guess is that early efforts at wiping material were more hit than miss. Billiard felt is probably not the most abysmal failure -- at least it's soft.