Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Distraction

     Sometimes when my mind wants to think about things that I would rather it didn't think about, I will distract it by thinking trivial thoughts.  It’s at times like these that I love to contemplate the common decisions that we all must make.  Due to their simplicity, the either/or propositions that offer but two choices seem to work the best for me.  It is very rare that the choice makes no difference at all.  In almost every case, one of the two choices is superior to the other for some reason.  After a moment, something inside of me will not allow me to bear an existence without knowing that reason.  On this particular occasion, I chose [probably for some Freudian reason that I would rather not consider] the endless debate over the rotational orientation of a toilet paper roll on a standard dispenser.  During installation, everyone has a personal preference whether the paper dispenses over-the-roll or under-the-roll.  However, no one seems to be able to articulate any logical reason for their preference.  It is my hope that this momentary mental diversion will remove all ambiguity regarding this seemingly mundane choice that faces us all.  There is no deeper meaning hiding here, so don't bother looking for it.
     We begin with an examination of the process of harvesting the paper from the roll.  The importance of orientation is dependent upon methodology.  Obviously, if both hands are free then the entire point becomes moot because the two-handed hold the roll with one hand and tug with the other method can be employed successfully regardless of orientation.  However, considering the fact that one hand will invariably be occupied by a cigarette, a cup of coffee or your favorite bathroom literature, we should assume that removing toilet paper from the roll is a one-handed procedure.  Regardless of the roll's orientation, this assumption immediately negates the possibility of the sharp, high-torque tug at the paper.  We have all sat in helpless horror and watched as the physical laws forbidding perpetual motion are suddenly suspended and half of that brand new roll goes cascading out of control onto the wet floor.  Another one-handed method doomed to failure is the slow tearing of the paper method.  As before, without the free hand to hold the roll in place, this method fails regardless of roll orientation.  The simple slow tearing of the paper will always require some force to be applied to the roll such that it will rotate slightly as you tear.  The result is that half way through the tearing process, you have dispensed the proper length from the end of the paper to your hand, and twice that amount from your hand to the roll.  The most effective method is that of using one of the two arms of the dispenser as a sort of frictional fulcrum.  The desired length of paper is pulled to the side (parallel to the wall) and then up or down against the dispenser arm until the paper tears.  Unlike the foolproof two-handed method, and the foolhardy one-handed methods mentioned above, the fulcrum method demands that a choice be made regarding roll orientation; over-the-roll orientation requires a downward pull against the dispenser arm, while under-the-roll orientation requires an upward pull.  It is at this point that we begin to see the driving force behind our decision regarding orientation; namely, the height of the dispenser relative to that of the seat.  
     The possible installation zone for a toilet paper dispenser is based on the comfortable reach zone.  This zone begins at a height far enough off the floor such that in bending to reach the roll, the nipples do not touch the knees. [Obviously, it’s the females who keep the lower end of the zone as high as it is.]  It ends at the height that an average person can possibly reach without standing up a little and making a mess.  For maximum efficiency and comfort, the paper should be pulled in the direction that allows the greatest clear pulling distance within the comfortable reach zone.  An important point to remember is that the portion of the zone up to approximately seated-eye-level is usually forsaken to keep the paper above the average splash height of a drop of male urine.  This fact places the standard roll greater than half of the distance up the comfortable reach zone.  An under-the-roll orientation would necessitate an upward pulling of the paper; the direction of least clear pulling distance within the comfortable reach zone.  Therefore, if the toilet paper dispenser is at an average height, then the paper should be in an over-the-roll orientation.  If it has been installed at a lower height (in the splash zone) then orientation effectively does not matter, because the paper should probably not be used...

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