Jury-Rigged Toilet Paper

A more or less true story. A little more in some parts, a little less in others. I’ve actually been gradually working on writing this for a while, but finally got around to finishing it (mostly because there are two other stories I want to start working on), one of which is similar to this story in a number of ways (a sort of real-life tragicomedy with weird origins). I also have several other stories that are in progress (some further than others) that I’ll be working on too.

Music this time is this really great Turkish psychedelic/funk compilation. This same guy has three others in the series (plus a few others from different countries), links to them are in the description.


I sat there, on the toilet, earbuds in and Breaking Bad playing on my phone. I was enjoying this rewatch of the series more than my first. I finished shitting, just one of those little in-between shits that accomplish very little.

I went to wipe and noticed that the toilet paper was about gone. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but I was staying at a place in Quebec City via Airbnb and it was about 1:00 AM. I had enough toilet paper for now, but that was it. I checked the four cabinets in the bathroom – none had toilet paper. Four cabinets under the kitchen sink and counter, the six above that and the refrigerator, the four across the kitchen. Nothing.

I checked all the closets and possible other places they could be hidden. Still nothing.

I’d probably shit once more tonight, an actual shit this time, and I could ask the owner for a new roll tomorrow. Or maybe just not at all, I’d be leaving early anyway.

I laid, or lounged, on the folded-down sofa that I’d be sleeping on and focused again on Breaking Bad. It had been playing the whole time, I had just been listening. I was finding, more and more, that I disliked using my eyes. Reading was fine, but I didn’t like watching things. I thought about what I should do and saw a roll of paper towels.

Everyone knows you aren’t supposed to flush paper towels. But do we really know that or are we just told that? Those signs above public toilets that say something like “only flush toilet paper” are probably just a precaution, right?

I grabbed the roll and tore off five sheets. It was double-ply, so I thought I could separate them and cut them down the middle to decrease the effective density of the material and avoid any potential trouble. God damn, though, those two sheets were fucking hard to pull apart. And wouldn’t you know it, it was that scene where Gus is negotiating with the cousins in Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish. I could just watch it for now, and make the process take longer, or I could focus on the towels and miss what was happening. Or I could pause it for a minute, but that thought never came to mind.

I opted for the latter, with occasional glances at the captions.

Jesus christ, I knew I should’ve brought my knife. I hadn’t, because I wasn’t sure if it was legal, Canada being sort of UK-ruled and the UK being absurdly stringent on knives. And it turned out that had probably been a good idea, since the border patrol guy asked if I had any weapons. Does a knife count as a weapon? It certainly can, at least, and I generally try to not raise any unnecessary red flags. It makes the red flags I do raise more easily ignored.

But god damn, these paper towels were tough to separate. The first one had been no problem, but I was having more and more trouble with each one and a knife would’ve helped. I guess I could’ve used a knife in the kitchen, but those knives were just different. I wasn’t as natural with them.

Once I had split six or so sheets, the resulting stack was higher than I would have expected. I tried using a knife to cut through it, but it was too thick. Scissors and, again, too thick. Either that or the scissors were too dull. I split the pile in two and cut through them separately with some trouble. Stacking the four cut sections together, I headed to the bathroom and set them on the back of the toilet, and returned to the couch and Breaking Bad.

Something about the paper towels was nagging at me, though. I knew you weren’t supposed to flush paper towels. But that’s only a problem when you flush a lot of them, right? Because they’re denser, and bigger than toilet paper? But I had made them thinner and cut them into strips, so it shouldn’t be a problem. But still, they were more resilient than toilet paper. You can rip toilet paper easily, even accidentally, but these paper towels still held together longer.

So I looked it up. I googled “why shouldn’t you flush paper towels”. There was a page by someone who was clearly a plumber or something and knew way, way too much about the relative strengths, densities, and other characteristics of toilet paper and paper towels, but there was also a post on one of those stupid question-asking sites. Like Yahoo Answers or Quora or whatever.

Its title read: “How to tell my father that I flushed paper towels down the toilet and clogged it?”

No description, no explanation. I just wondered what this situation was. Why did they flush a bunch of paper towels down the toilet? What is the father’s role in this? What, exactly, is going on here?

But more importantly, this served as a personal experience about the effect they can have on plumbing. Maybe those signs in bathrooms weren’t just to negate the owner’s liability in the rare case that something happened. Maybe paper towels were expressly designed to destroy bathroom plumbing. But don’t women flush, you know, sanitary napkins or whatever? Those have to be thicker than paper towels. What was it, specifically, about paper towels that made them so bad?

On the other hand, this poor soul had probably flushed whole paper towels. My prepared paper towels were each half the thickness and width of a normal paper towel, so maybe I wouldn’t have a problem.

I decided to put it to the test. I headed to the bathroom and took the top half-sheet off the stack, tore the corner off, and replaced the rest. I found a little scrap of toilet paper that was still on the roll, then headed to the sink. A bit of water had splashed onto the counter, and I set both pieces into it, let them absorb as much water as they could, then removed them. The toilet paper fell apart instantly, dissolving into a useless lump of pulp. The paper towel, though, as thin and water-soaked as it was, still held. It was compromised, but still decently strong, at least in comparison to the toilet paper.

I searched the bathroom for a plunger, just in case something happened, but couldn’t find one.

I headed back to the couch, and started getting ready for bed. Mix up a dose of kava in a pint jar, down it, clear my palate with a few sour gummies I had gotten at IGA, play a bit of a game while listening to something, mix up a little extra and down it, head to the bathroom one last time, and go to bed.

It was a real shit, this time. I was frugal as I could be with the fake toilet paper, using only four of the sheets to wipe. I thought a silent prayer and flushed. It flushed just fine, though as I left the bathroom I thought I heard a little gurgle. I was tired and buzzed enough to not care much, though. The bowl had emptied, that was all I needed.

I was heading out pretty early the next morning, so had my stuff all packed up when I woke up, admittedly a bit later than intended. I changed my clothes, put my pajamas in my bag, and moved my stuff over to the door. I figured I should go to the bathroom once before I left, just so I wouldn’t have to stop at a gas station or whatever too soon. I pissed and thankfully was sitting down, because one last little dribble of shit left me. I stood up and wiped. It shouldn’t have taken more than one sheet. But it was one of those shits that was like the endless bottle of oil from the bible. You can just keep wiping and wiping all day and the paper will keep picking up shit, even though it makes no sense. It took four sheets before I decided my ass was adequately clean.

I flushed.

It went down, about halfway, but the gurgle returned and an inverse whirlpool issued out of the drain, filling the bowl with a swirling mix of water, shit, and paper. It continued gurgling, the whirlpool kept going. The water rose, rose, reached the edge of the toilet, and just barely spilled over. It didn’t pour over, just spilled a little. The water remained level, a meniscus just slightly holding it in the bowl.

I should tell him. But also, I had to go. I had to fucking go. I was almost late already, getting a hold of that guy and explaining and trying to find a way out would only take longer. So I grabbed my bags and booked it to my car.

Once I was just on the outskirts of the city I stopped at a Chez Ashton and got a big bowl of poutine. They had wifi, so I logged into my Airbnb account on my phone. Settings, account, advanced, delete account. Confirm? Yes.

I had already paid him. I hadn’t done anything wrong. At least, there wasn’t much else I could have done.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s