The Roll of Fortune

When I was at Harvey Mudd, someone decided that they could “Save Some Money” by replacing the traditional roll of toilet paper with this wacky, super-size (about 8 inches in diameter) roll. Rather that having its axis parallel to the stall wall, this freak had its axis perpendicular. To prevent the apparently quite numerous Toilet Paper Thieves, the whole roll was covered in a translucent plastic housing. Since you could no longer actually touch the toilet paper, it had a knob (about 1 1/2 inches in diameter) with which to rotate the roll.

Apparently the dimwits that designed this contraption and the dimwits that purchased this contraption never had to actually use it. Presumably due to clever penny-pinching, the toilet paper itself was incredibly thin and flimsy. While this posed a problem in performing its raison d'etre, namely wiping oneself, it posed an even larger problem during dispensation: it stuck to itself. There you would sit upon the throne, in need of some personal sanitation, twisting away on the little knob in hopes that maybe, just maybe, some toilet paper would descend out of the opening on the bottom of the translucent plastic housing.

But it never did.

Presumably due to more clever penny-pinching, the toilet paper was not perforated. Rather, it was one long strip that would be sectioned by the sharp, serrated steel blades placed on both sides of the opening on the bottom of the translucent plastic housing. (One presumes that oodles of sharp, serrated steel blades are cheaper than one toilet paper-perforating machine.) Since the toilet paper clung to itself with fierce determination, you were forced to reach up into the translucent plastic housing to search for the loose end. This is where you first learned (and were repeatedly reminded) of the sharp, serrated steel blades.

Several approaches were taken to deal with those freaks of engineering. At first, when tempers ran kind of high, the translucent plastic housings were forcibly removed to allow better access to the toilet paper. Needless to say, this was not a popular solution. Because Harvey Mudd is an engineering school, the next approach was to skillfully (like with tools, eh?) remove the translucent plastic housing. However, Facilities kept dutifully replacing the housings. Finally, students would bring rolls of traditional toilet paper and balance them atop the translucent plastic housing.

I am sure they eventually did save some money. If they had simply removed the toilet paper from the restrooms, they would have been seen as barbarians. But by cleverly replacing it with a completely useless solution, they were merely seen as incompetents and the students started buying their own toilet paper. For a small up-front cost of some bizarre contraptions, they never had to buy toilet paper again.

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