The Toilet Paper Dilemma: A Satirical Critique of Tulane’s TP Trouble

The kind Desk Service Coordinator behind the extravagant Weatherhead desk simply shrugged her shoulders and half smiled. My world shattered; I sharply inhaled the stiff air that reeked of exclamations involving GPA numbers, ungodly amounts of alcohol consumed by pre-meds, and grief surrounding mandatory colloquium participation. 

            She knew that the days to come would be filled with discomfort for me – the sympathy roiled off her in waves. Sympathy turned to surplus amount apologetics. I wanted to scream, “Why are you sorry?! You’ve done nothing! You’ve done a wonderful job of letting me down easy! Polite and kind! I’m not upset at you, I’m upset at the powers that be who can’t supply me with this basic necessity!”

Similar to the plight of the waiter, the problem is not with the service, but the metaphorical food, or, in this case, lack thereof. People in service ought to stop apologizing for something they have no control over; frankly, people in service ought to be apologized to.

I waved her off, “I’m sorry! Good luck with finding some…”, thanked her, and left. Shaking my fist at the sky towards Yulman stadium, where the Angry Green Wave sits (our own Walmart-brand Gumby), perpetually smirking at me and my various plights. 

 

I don’t need good luck, I need toilet paper. 

 

A lightbulb went off in my head. I could visit Greenbaum! They would have toilet paper…But I can’t go inside…Eureka! I hatched a plan, texted some friends who resided within the hallowed walls of the prime real estate that was immediately adjacent to the continuously raucous college bar (even in the time of ‘Rona), and patiently awaited their reply from the LBC. Meanwhile, I drowned my sorrows in the Star Ginger tofu pho and Taio Cruz throwbacks. 

 

PING 

 

A reply! Thank god. Bathroom tissue here I come! I read the text and my heart sank. Were I in a cartoon, my face would’ve found a home in my soup bowl for dramatic effect. My DSC friend who worked in Greenbaum sent back just a simple, crushing, heart-wrenching text: 

“No TP in Greenbaum. Ppl grabbed all of it b4 [Hurricane] Laura…”

Explicatives ensued. Many, many, many expletives. So, obviously, I called my mom (the explanation here being she curses like a sailor, which is where I get it from). 

 

She picked up with a sigh:

 

“Lisa, we have a problem.” 

“Who is ‘we’? Also, don’t call me Lisa.” 

“Now is not the time for correction, it is time for action and complaint! I might break things!” 

“Why are you being so dramatic?” 

“Simply put: We have no toilet paper in the suite.” 

“Okay, so then go get some from that one desk you usually get it from.” 

“That’s just it.” 

“What is?” 

“I can’t.” 

“Why? Did your legs stop working?” 

“No.” 

“Then why?” 

“They have no TP.” 

“Okay, so then go ask another desk.” 

“I did.” 

“And?” 

“Nothing.” 

“…Is there a school-wide shortage, or something?” 

“Starting to think the answer to that question is ‘Yes’, but I also can’t figure out who to contact because bureaucracy masks those who hold the most power. DOWN with the SYSTEM.” 

A few stray heads turn my way, and I quiet myself again. Not everyone has to know about my TP troubles. 

“Taeghan, just go buy some in the bookstore.” 

           I almost dropped my phone, and while I didn’t drop that, my jaw did. My mother, who pays for my tuition, just suggested I give Tulane even more money? Absolutely preposterous. 

“What an awful idea, Mother Dearest. I’d expect more of a protest from you…” 

“Just go buy some damn toilet paper, Taeghan.” 

“I refuse. Don’t we pay for ample supply of toilet paper in our housing??!?!?!” 

“Yes. We definitely do.” 

“Then why pay for something that is supposed to be supplied to me? Is it one-ply? Yes. Is it rough and useless unless folded like it were two- or three- ply? Absolutely. But do I still value the bathroom tissue supplied over buying my own? 200 percent. I demand the loo napkins that we pay for. That is all. I ask for nothing more than what is supposed to be provided; does that make me an awful human? No. It makes me someone willing to take a stand, and voice my concern over contractual obligations not being met.” 

“By all means, go talk to Fitts. He’ll get it sorted.” 

“Oh, you’re saying we go all the way to the top? That was aggressive, but I almost like it.” 

“You said I lacked protest before, and now you’re concerned about my escalation?” 

“Mmmm… You’ve made exceptional points, Mother Dearest.” 

“As per usual.” 

“Agreed. Buh-bye.” 

“Go find leaves, if nothing else.”

I hung up my phone. With the phone call completed, no more immediate brain blasts, and an unyielding stubbornness surrounding the purchase of toilet paper, I walked around campus in a stupor.  

What was my existence here at Tulane? Where did I fit in? Who was I to be for the next three days without toilet paper if this hurricane does show up and out? Would I become the next Bear Grylls and take on the dangerous environment of Tulane dormitories? It was quickly coming down to either using an old calculus book’s pages or hoarded commons napkins. I was not keen on either option, but I would do it so as to not concede my efforts in demanding what I was owed. I solemnly began my walk back to my toilet paper-less suite. Head hanging, shoulders slumped, and close to tears, I tapped in, climbed the steps, and stumbled into my door, turning to go grab my old calc binder. 

“Alas poor WebAssign, I knew it well.” Ripping a few sturdy and well-turned pages, I wandered into the bathroom. The dread of what was to come settling into my bones, and my heart. 

But soft! Do my wonderful eyes deceive me? What lay there but a beautiful package of four heavenly two-ply rolls! I threw myself to the ground, grappling with the plastic to free a roll from its clear (and not environmentally friendly) prison. Sobbing tears of relief and pure enthrallment, I could’ve filled all the potholes in New Orleans with my tears. 

Gratitude spilled from my lips like wine from an ancient relic to the heavens; I ran to my suitemates, and yelped, “I’ve seen the light, I’ll never question the existence of a higher power again. Who bought this luxury for us?”  Tears covering my face, my suitemates ran to me and embraced me in the warmest hug I’ve ever known. They pulled back and smiled. One of the lovely angels looked up at me and said, “I did. Discount at Walmart.” I fell to my knees and clutched her legs, wailing “thank you” and “god bless” over and over until I let go of her legs and shakily got to my feet. 

Saluting with roll in hand, and tears in eyes, I walked calmly to the bathroom. Where Tulane had failed, my suitemates had not – not for one’s self, but for one’s own. And I live by that. 

white tissue toilet paper roll Photo by visuals from Unsplash

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The above account is based off of a real experience lived by many Tulane students who go to retrieve toilet paper and find none. Tulane, I ask you dearly, please increase your toilet paper stock. For the women, especially, who always have to use toilet paper. Please account for the fact that it’s one-ply and will go quickly. Please don’t make me use my textbook pages (though it’s better than 200 dollars going to waste fully). Don’t make me scavenge for leaves. Don’t make me use commons napkins. Just, for the love of all that is good and that hasn’t been ruined by 2020, buy more toilet paper. Please.