Bottoms Up

Keep government out of the bathroom.

TALLAHASSEE ( - A proposed law currently making its way through the Florida legislature might help you with what can be an embarrassing problem. Here's the bottom line, the bill would be a mandate that all eating establishment must have enough toilet paper when you go into the restroom.

It's been said that there is no politician, no matter how high or low, who does not look in the mirror and see a future President of the United States smiling back at him.  In a nation filled with thousands of politicians, all striving to advance themselves, it's sometimes difficult to raise one's own name above the crowd.  A time-honored way of accomplishing this goal is by passing a piece of legislation that will affect the life of every voter on a daily basis, thereby recalling the name of the legislator every time.

There can be few more amusing examples of this phenomenon than the recent events in the Florida legislature chronicled above.  Is there any among us who has led such a charmed life as to never have been, shall we say, left hanging on the throne?  I have personally fought this battle over many years and in many venues, and yet still, rarely does the month go by when I am not left stranded in my own home, ranting and hollering down the hall for an emergency delivery.

Yet while not denying the existence - nay, the prevalence - of such predicaments on a daily basis, the article fails to point out the dire danger inherent in this attempt.  Quoth the reporter:

The only problem is the bill doesn't dictate how much toilet paper is 'enough.'

There's a problem right there - and it is a more profound issue than may first meet the eye.  Just exactly how much toilet paper is enough?

The stated intention of the lawmaker is to ensure that "enough" toilet paper is provided when and where needed.  Sounds like a reasonable goal, right?

But the precedent established is that the content of toilet paper dispensers is the business of the government.  Why on earth is that any of the government's concern at all?

We could talk about the waste of legislative time in debating this issue.  We could express concern about the taxpayer dollars that this effort will flush, and the bloated bureaucracy (the Potty Patrol, in avocado-green uniforms and white bowler hats?) that would inevitably result from any serious attempt to enforce the law; and if there is to be no serious attempt to enforce the law, why bother having it in the first place?  But far worse is that what government can require, it can also regulate.

The subject of toilet-paper consumption is not entirely uncontroversial.  Some months back, famous singer Sheryl Crow said this about toilet paper:

I have spent the better part of this tour trying to come up with easy ways for us all to become a part of the solution to global warming.  Although my ideas are in the earliest stages of development, they are, in my mind, worth investigating... I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting.

One might think that, as a lady, Ms. Crow would have a more generous view; or perhaps, she is so rich as to not require toilet paper at all.  Her insight wasn't taken entirely seriously at the time, but then yesterday's nonsensical ramblings of drug-addled celebrities have a worrying tendency to become the laws and regulations of tomorrow.

Just at the moment, there happens to be an increasingly powerful movement in government to ban all manner of useful and common things, from light bulbs to thermometers to toilets that use enough water to actually get the job done, all in the name of protecting the environment.

If we allow the government to control how much toilet paper must be provided, it will not be long before it regulates how much we may use - all in the name of the environment, of course.  Think of the problems with excessive paper in the sewage!  And the millions of carbon-absorbing trees that are consumed by excess toilet paper consumption!

Is it too far-fetched to envision a day when the restroom door dispenses you your single statutory square on the way in?  The mind reels (but the tissue won't).

Lest you scoff, be aware that the Japanese government has "encouraged" citizens to purchase rather expensive toilets which spray water on your bum in order to conserve toilet paper.  It is true that the less toilet paper there is in the sewers, the less it costs to run the sewage plant, but is personal sanitation any business of government?

In one of the pulp catalogs that we all get in the mail, I once saw a Christmas-themed toilet seat cover.  On the top side, it showed a cheery Santa saying HO HO HO.  When you lifted the lid, though, the inside bore a red-faced Santa with his gloves over his eyes, saying OH OH OH!  Maybe now we need an Al Gore toilet-seat cover, wagging a finger and admonishing, "No! No! No!"

You laugh, as well you should.  But when that nagging voice has the force of law, the joke will be on all of us.

It's been said that the government should stay out of the bedroom.  They can jolly well stay out of my bathroom too!  Or is that what's happening to all the toilet paper that's never there when I'm in need?

Kermit Frosch is a guest writer for  Read other articles by Kermit Frosch or other articles on Environment.
Reader Comments
Shall we say "something smells?"...
March 17, 2008 3:11 PM
Ho Ho HO! MEMO: To rationalize sewage flow legislatures should be advised to study toilet usage hours and establish appropriate timetables for individual citizens. Everyone can then be issued a Sewer Hour Identification Tag (associated with a DNA sample)and assigned their Personal Poo Hour such that toilet flushing throughout the day is optimized: Studies have shown that the current disorganized system with peaks in the morning (and the consequent inefficient demand on pump operation at sewage treatment plants) have a grave impact on The Environment, Global arming. As monitoring systems must be installed in every household as well as all public toilets (the technology exists) there is an opportunity to supervise the entire population: this would be Politically Correct as there is absolutely no discrimination at all. Contrary to phone tapping, there is no provision against Sewage Taps, so it can't be unconstitutional.
March 17, 2008 4:37 PM
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