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I'm On a Roll, Baby


I have a friend with a real eye for design—in another life she definitely would have been a fabulous interior decorator if not an engineer creating useful products for better functionality. Often she’ll stare hard at something, point a menacing finger toward the thing and say, “That was designed by a man.” She never means this as a compliment. Rather, she she thinks men tend to design for looks, not function. Including functional flow in houses, on boats, in products we use in our everyday lives. They may think they’re helping, but generally, it seems not (or so my friend contends; do direct your complaints her way, thank you!).

(I Googled “man made” images and this is what came up first!)

I remember years back when public bathrooms started being retrofitted for wheelchair accessibility. It was at about the same time that the salesman for the Giant Toilet Paper Roll Company clearly hit the sales jackpot, because it seemed you couldn’t stumble upon a public loo in the U.S. without a gargantuan roll of the stuff. Which from a male-designed standpoint made some sense: buy big, buy cheap, sure. Buy big, replace less often. Okay, I’m with you. But then the plans things went awry: someone (a male? One wonders…) established standards that seem to have been implemented nation-wide about where to position these mambo-rolls within the narrow confines of a bathroom stall. It had some vague connection to wheelchair accessibility, but I can promise you it had nothing to do with how those in a wheelchair would then be able to access the stuff.

I think it was all about avoiding the handle bar that is installed midway up the stall. So this rocket scientist had a choice: position the paper high, above the bar, or install the paper low. For some reason low made imminent sense (is this because they don’t use the stuff, thus don’t “get” the failed functionality test?). Thus, these mega-rolls are forever installed wayyyy downnnnn lowwwww, requiring the user to lean far to the left and back slightly or forward too much to then get her arm bent enough to be able to reach up into the roll canister to access the stubborn paper that is stuck therein. Once there, you must hard, but argh, you can’t, because some brainiac (perhaps an infrequent user of the product, like, say, a man!) decided it was going to be even cheaper (yay!) to make the paper one-ply (sometimes I think they’ve gotten it down to near zero-ply), so that if you try to pull it–and bear with me because there is physics involved in this and I fail miserably at science concepts–the weight of the 20-lb. roll of toilet paper (TP for short) precludes the ability for the ply-less paper from holding strong against the vigorous force of the pull.

(it seems Bessie the elephant has it easier in the loo than your average woman)

So the innocent bystander (or should I say sitter) in said stall is left, shall we say, holding the square. Because the paper is not going to come off but for sheet-by-miserable-sheet, while you bend over at an awkward angle (and dare I suggest that your average wheelchair-bound woman in a public restroom is likely ill-equipped to be lurching gymnastically leeward to do the TP-twist?).

To compound this dilemma, you have the auto-flush toilet (man designed? you decide…). I once was helping potty train a kid who was terrified of the auto-flush. Poor child burst into tears upon hearing the ominous rumbling of the oncoming flush, a locomotive coming down the tracks. Once, when attempted to help wipe said child, the power flush erupted after having to tilt the kid to one side, and the poor thing literally flipped into a forward roll off the toilet from fright. Leaving me—the one who always cracks up over the wrong things—to laugh till tears streamed down my face.

Okay, so how this fits in with this theme: when you are in the midst of the left-leaning swoop to try to clutch at the elusive weak-willed TP, you then move away from the omniscient laser-beam light that tells the pot it’s time to flush. So while you’re desperately grabbing for paper, that cursed thing is flushing. Again, and again, and again. Because after the first flush you instinctually sit upright to stop the thing from happening, but then darned if you don’t have to reaacchchhhh wayyyyy down to try to get that elusive paper.

Maybe the end-result of this design flaw issue is that women are less likely to use public bathrooms, an added bonus for the provider, who then saves in water usage (except when the auto-flush goes awry), paper consumption (because you can’t get to it and thus you give up even trying), and cleaning supplies (because no one is using it with the regularity of days gone by). Plus you save on all that toilet paper theft.

About that TP theft…I’m sorry! I did it! I was a stupid college student! What can I say?

Yes, I have a dirty little secret: I have to assume some of the blame in this TP quandary. I admit there were times when my college roommates and I would help ourselves to a spare roll or two from the dorm bathrooms and take them back to our apartment. On a college budget sometimes you had to choose between spending spare cash on beer or TP. I think you can guess which usually won the internal debate. I do remember being at a bar one night with three rolls tucked lumpily in my backpack. I have to concede that it would be downright impossible (not to mention awkward) to lug a 10-lb roll of that cheap paper in your backpack. Plus once you got it home, what would you do with it? You’d have to hammer a railroad stake into the wall and dangle the thing from it. (note to students: if you do so, please hang it high enough!).

I have absolutely no idea what this has to do with this blog post but it seemed like such a bizarre image I just had to include it!

Okay, so back to the design thing. I am a female. I know how to do this better. It’s actually quite logical. Put the mega-giant-gargantuan roll of toilet paper up HIGHER, people (i.e. men who have decided it should be as close to the floor tiles as humanly possible). We women will appreciate it, and I have to assume particularly those in wheelchairs will thank you as well. End of rant.

Categories: humor, Jenny Gardiner, memoir, Over the Falls, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, Slim to None, Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me, women, women's fiction

You Gotta Defy Age While You Still Can


(I wish I’d made this cute cake but alas, I didn’t. found the pic on the internet)

My husband joined AARP. I told him it was a mistake, if for no other reason than a psychological one. Who wants to be lumped in the oldster crowd the minute you crest 50?

(I had to put this picture in–I googled “old man with walker” to pull up a picture of an old man with a walker and THIS is what it shows me?! So I’ll say this is me defying the old man with walker mentality ;-)

Now we get brochures in the mail for nursing homes, which is premature, for one thing. Plus, with this lame economy, don’t they know we’ll be sleeping on park benches by the time we actually need a nursing home? Although by then I envision gulag-style developments where all the broke, aged baby boomers who lost their retirement savings in the real estate bubble will be relegated to wither away during their twilight years, tooling around in half-broken wheelchairs over cracked failing pavement. How’s that for golden years?! If we’re lucky we’ll be housed in all of the default-loan houses that can’t sell because no one can afford to buy them because no one can get jobs because corporations are too busy stockpiling record earnings for the top 1% of their staff to bother hiring anyone else and creating jobs so people can afford to, um, live. Sorry, I got a little off-topic. Back to early aging (although I call dibs on a house in Miami if it comes to my prediction).
My girlfriend, now in her early 50’s, joined the senior’s tennis league because she can happily whip the butts of the much older gals. She thrilled to win and win handily this way, and she’s got a valid point there. So maybe acceding to age isn’t always a mistake–it can be gratifying.

(my friend would not appreciate this picture and what it suggests about older tennis players losing their, um, charms)

I enjoyed a brief phase as a tennis player (not a good one, just serviceable). I’d always wanted to flit about in a cute tennis skirt and the only way you can really get away with that is if you play the sport. So I did, until I kept getting injured and had to stop. So I had to give up my cute skirts. Now they have exercise skirts which I’d so love to don but as a keen observer of what does and does not work in gym wear, I recognize that a) you have to have a rockin’ body to wear exercise skirts and b) you can’t be my age and get away with wearing them unless you’ve run at least ten marathons in the past five years–it’s like a golden ticket pass.
Wise to the cuteness factor of tennis skirts, for years I tried to encourage my girls to play tennis but they would have nothing to do with it. “Think of the cute outfits!” I told them, but it fell on deaf ears. And then my youngest finally got her chance for adorable sportswear last year when she was recruited to pinch-hit for her varsity field hockey team when they needed a goalie. A long-time soccer goalie, she’d never played field hockey before, and I’d never seen a match before, so I naively thought, “At last, she’s going to have a cute uniform, those adorable little plaid skirts! Lucky her!” Imagine my surprise when I showed up at the game to see my daughter in goal looking like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, garbed as she was in boxy padding that essentially hid every hint of her existence. I was happy for her from a safety standpoint, but felt badly she got the short end of the uniform stick.

I saw an exercise skirt today that I really want (but will not succumb to, knowing that it’s the female equivalent of the very large guy on the show Modern Family wearing tight bicycle shorts–a big no no for all involved. My girls forever warn me not to look like that at the gym and I generally take heed. But this girl had on a skirt with back pleats that swished when she walked and darn it, I want to swish when I walk but then I realized I’m not a swisher, never have been, and nearing 50, it’s past the point at which I’m even allowed to swish. You have to recognize your limitations, I always say. But it also doesn’t mean I have to yield to my age and join the AARP, which I won’t, thank you. At least not till I can reap the benefits of the senior citizen discounts, maybe.
Last week my husband got a special gift from AARP. A leather-look vinyl man-purse. Just the thing he needed to complete the loser picture he signed up for. As if it’s not bad enough, it’s emblazoned with the AARP logo, just to seal the deal. I suppose at least it wasn’t a man-skirt.

I dunno, maybe I’m being unfair with this whole AARP thing. Perhaps it’s useful to get the inside scoop on the latest in retirement villages. Even if it is cruel, dangling fancy retirement homes in front of him, considering at this rate we’ll never even be able to sell our house, let alone retire. We might even have to turn it into a retirement apartment or something, at the rate the economy is going.
Jenny Gardiner is the author of the award-winning novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, as well as the novels Slim to None and Over the Falls, the novel House of Cards, and the humorous memoir Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who’s Determined to Kill Me. She also has a story in Wade Rouse’s upcoming humorous dog anthology I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship (NAL/Sept ’11), a fundraiser for the Humane Society of the US and selected animal charities.





Categories: Books, humor, Jenny Gardiner, Over the Falls, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, Slim to None, Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me, women's fiction