My daily life: communication and solutions

A day at the math department. Midday. I go to the toilet to drop excrement and read Twitter. That done, I reach into the toilet paper conch.

It’s empty.

Well, reaching deep within I can feel the cardboard tube, but that’s no good for wiping.

For I moment I just sit there, dull surprise on my face.

Then I read some more Twitter and FMyLife, resisting a slight urge to comment on one of those about my position.

Then, when there are no particular sounds of footsteps from the corridor, I crack the cubicle door open and reach into the antechamber, the likewise closet-sized pre-toilet with a handwashing basin and a single male-peeing bowl. (I realize my terminology is weird; but you rarely read or talk about toilets.) There on the wall, two paces away, next to the corridor/toilet door, is a dispenser for hand towels.

Paper hand towels. And not the sandpapery kind either, but the nice ones. (If it had been the sandpaper towels, I might have resorted to some real commando methods.)

I calculate — one human being, two hands; one needed for ripping out a stack of towels, one needed for keeping the door closed, one needed to keep my underpants awkwardly halfway up, covering the worm and the dumplings.

Left for towels, right for pants; mercifully nobody picks these four seconds for a time to come in.

I wipe, the toilet eats the towels without too much burping; and as I stand up I really notice something I had glanced at coming in: a wadded, unused paper towel, like the last of a bunch held by a sweaty hand, in the nook between the seat and the wall.

Apparently, it seems, I was not the first to resort to these methods.

And as I walk out, a physics assistant rushes past me, into the toilet. For a split second I try to find a polite way to tell him ERMAHGERD THERE’S NO TOILET PAPER; but a split second isn’t enough.

Besides, it’s a problem with a proven solution; and as a mathematician, I’m happy with that.

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