"Once again the toilet paper is hanging backwards on the roll," said my wife as she inspected my very own bathroom that is my responsibility to take care of. She then reversed the roll so that the paper hung down forward rather than being pulled from underneath. "Now it's right."
"Who says?" I mumbled as I stood in the stream of air from the swamp cooler in the hall just outside the bathroom door. "I mean who says that there is a right or wrong way to put toilet paper on a holder?"
As a reporter I have gotten used to challenging everything I hear. However, each of us, regardless of profession, should pick and choose our battles judiciously, and the minute those words came out of my mouth, I knew I had not chosen well.
She looked at me.
"It's just the way it is," she said with that look on her face that meant "I make the house rules."
But now that I had placed myself in the arena of battle, I couldn't withdraw without at least a token struggle. Who knew, I might have still had a chance to survive.
"You know that is not an answer," I said as I ventured into dangerous territory. "That's the kind of answer we used to give the kids when we didn't want to explain the real reason we wanted them to do something or to not do something. That answer won't work on me."
The battle had already turned against me with those poorly chosen syllables. She looked at me with those blue eyes I fell in love with, but that were now as turquoise as the ice on Pluto.
"There was a thread of discussion about this very thing on the internet one day and the majority of people that responded have their toilet paper roll over the top," she said as she stared me down. Then she looked at the shelf above the toilet and her eyes changed to that color they do when she discovers a flaw in a story I tell her. "By the way, why is there another roll on the shelf above the toilet half used while the one that was installed improperly on the roller was not used at all?"
I didn't know how to quite parry that stroke of accusation. I am literally the only one that uses that room except on occasions when company stays with us or when our son Mitch comes home for a weekend. I then remembered that he had been home the weekend before, so I tried a blame the dog story.
"Oh that must have been Mitch," I said plainly without breaking a crack on my lying face. I really wasn't turning my son over to the lions, because he lives out of town and by the time she talked with him the whole thing would be over. Besides, he owed me one for all those years of putting up with him.
But my proud perfect lie broke down quickly as she started to take it apart in her mind like the tornado in the Wizard of Oz took apart the picket fence in front of Dorothy's house. She just stared at me, hands on hips, with that look most men know all too well. I went on the offensive before she could talk again.
"Hey don't give me the stink eye," I said referring to a line out of one of our favorite movies hoping to make her smile. It didn't help.
"This whole thing is not Mitch's fault," she said. "This is much like the creative way you load the dishwasher, or when you put a gallon milk jug in the refrigerator with an ounce of milk left in it or when you steal tools from my tool drawer or when you use the chair in the bedroom as a closet. Need I go on?"
I didn't want to hear more; she was right. Defeat was close, so surrender was the only choice. I then admitted that I had used the roll on the shelf first.
"Uh, well sometimes the roller in the dispenser sticks so the shelf is easier for me to use," I said changing my story hoping she wouldn't remember I had.
I immediately realized how weak a defense this was. My eyes must have looked like those of a rabbit on Highway 6 with a semi coming at it. Death or at least near death was at hand.
"What could be easier about it?" she said quietly. "Besides if you had the roll so the paper came over the top it wouldn't stick. It was meant to work that way."
In my embattled state I saw a glimpse of light. There is no way that roller was any kind of tissue controller; it would free wheel either way.
"Wait a minute," I said with renewed vigor for the battle. "That roller works the same both ways. There's no difference if it comes off the bottom or top."
There I had said it. My first good punch of the conversation. It also ended up being my last.
She didn't say anything. She just reached down, yanked on the toilet tissue roll that was in the dispenser and about 15 feet of it rolled out on the floor. I looked down at the pile of white sheets laying on the checkered tile.
"Well look at this," I said as I tore off those sheets and reversed the roll so that the paper would come off the bottom. Then I yanked on it good and hard.
It tore in two sheets. I did it again; this time it didn't roll, just one sheet came off as I held it in my little miffled paw.
She walked out of the bathroom.
I on the other hand gathered up all the wasted tissue, put it in the trash can and re hung the toilet paper.
This time with the sheets coming off the top.