Sunday, March 11, 2012

Redressing a Dystopian Omission


I've been thinking about the popularity of post-apocolyptic tales, and it occurred to me that something significant is missing. It's also missing from historical fiction.

What is this missing link, you ask?

Toilet paper.

Or rather, it's historic equivalent.

Despite the irrefutable necessity of the stuff, you never hear about it. In the past and presumably in a Walmart-free, post-zombie future, we won't be able to run out and buy a 24-roll pack to stash in the linen closet.

In days gone by, the Old Farmer's Almanac and Sears Roebuck catalogs performed valuable service in the privy. In a TP-free future, would we first raid our shelves of pulp fiction, then how-to books, and eventually great works of literature?

(I fear that Bibles will once again become an extravagance only the rich can afford, filled as they are with page after page of soft onion skin.)

But let's face it. How far could the almanac and the catalog actually go? And who got to use it? Was it first come, first served? Was it reserved for the man of the family? For tender little ones? There had to be additional supplies once the last sheets were torn out, or for the low man on the totem pole who didn't get to use the paper.

In the US, corncobs were supposed to be the primary potty material. But where were the cobs stored? How were they collected? If you weren't a farmer, could you buy a bag at the general store?

No matter what was used, gathering the necessary supplies and putting them in the privy and near the chamber pots had to be a regular chore. But you never hear about it. None of the Little House books talk about it. The Hunger Games never mentions it.

If and when I write a story set in the dystopian future I'm going to address this. Someday, somewhere, some character is going to be in charge of stocking the outhouse.

Meanwhile, I'm going to lock a few of my Bibles in a safe deposit box.

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