Thursday, July 3, 2008

Toilet Paper for free?

Lately, Nathaniel and I have noticed an interesting phenomenon while standing in line. No, not while walking into the store, nor while traipsing through the isles of delectably stocked goods. Rather we have overheard the most interesting exchanges at the check out counter.

And not because we were eavesdropping.

Far from it.

At least it wasn’t deliberate on our part.


No, we couldn’t help but hear the exchanges, because 1)they took ridiculously long 2) the items in question were downright silly and 3) we were within three feet of said conversations.

Case in point: last Tuesday, the two of us dashed into the Exchange (military shopping center) on NAS (Naval Air Station) Whiting Field. No biggie. Well, not really – unless you count the two-dozen eggs, gallon of milk, yogurt, and other groceries waiting for us in our million-degree car. Because remember: it’s July and Florida. And it’s hotter than, well, you know where.

Let’s just say that the red guy with the pointy trident and cape would feel at home along the Gulf Coast this time of year. And no, I’m not talking about Vlad Tepes (Dracula, for all you East Europen History buffs).

No, I’m sure the devil himself would be apt to find parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties downright cozy right about now.

And he was laughing at us, as we unassumingly darted into the exchange for a "quick" trip.

We thought it would take less than five minutes. Five minutes and we would have stars for Nate’s ribbons, and possibly, maybe, a (said in a very small voice) pint of Stonyfield Farm Fat Free Frozen Yogurt. Or, perhaps – peanut butter M&Ms.

With stars in tow and NO ( repeat – none) peanut butter M&Ms or frozen yogurt, Nathaniel and I approached the check out counter. The mission wasn’t entirely unsuccessful, as I was able to turn down the temptation of other delicious candy that was calling my name. Nothing says “Marit, eat me!” like a bag of Fun Sized Rese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cups.

But I was strong, I was fierce, I was determined. And let’s face it: Fun Size really isn’t all that fun. It’s just a taste. A chomp. The equivalent of eating one or two chips from an entire bag. And quite honestly, who wants that?

While mulling this over, Nate and I got in line.

Where we waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

There was one guy ahead of us, and then an older gentleman in front of him.

And on the checkout counter in front of the older gent, were about three dozen rolls of 12-count toilet paper. Just kidding. Not 36 bags – no. But there may have well been. Instead, there were only 8 or so bags of 12-count rolls. Scouts honor. Totally serious.

Count 'em: 96 rolls of toilet paper, just ready and waiting to be purchased.

Regardless, there were a LOT of toilet paper rolls.

Double sheeted, for all those inquiring minds.

So technically, that means 192 equivalent rolls of toilet paper. Double sided and all.

Enough for… for…. For the Ladies and Chris of Camp STFU, as they (according to One Very Regular ELF) eat lots of oatmeal on a daily basis. (Hope camp is going well girls! And Chris – keep your bathroom door closed. Don’t want anyone to walk in and find your hand down your pants. Again. Once was enough, thank you very much).

Er, sorry about that.

(True story about Elizabeth’s Chris. Back in California last March, the poor guy had a hard time with saddle sores. We all do. His were just very bad. And, he was very thorough about taking care of said sores. So when Liz told me I could “come in and borrow her hairbrush” and invited me into their bathroom, I walked right in. My jaw dropped when I realized what I was looking at: Chris, with his hands down his shorts and staring intently down the front of his pants, was applying cream to his nether-region.

We made eye contact through the mirror, and without a word, I turned and walked out.

And I have been changed ever since.

It really was hilarious. And I have felt a certain kinship with Chris ever since. Well that, and he’s a brilliant bike mechanic who can do amazing things with bikes of any sort. Oh yeah, and he qualified for some really big race in Hawaii. And now, he’s apparently taken to building wheels. If I’m ever in Chicago, I know who I want taking care of my bike).

Back to the store. Well, to the line in the store.

After inching forward, we realized that the guy was arguing about how many rolls he could get for free after purchasing X number of bags. Yes, we were being held hostage by the promise of free toilet paper. Wonderful.

Not only did he have the poor clerk at Lane 1 assisting, but the clerks and Lanes 2 and 3 were there as well. And when the store manager and the lady from the jewelry counter made their presence know, I was beyond words.

All for toilet paper.

Double sheeted toilet paper.

Butt still.

(Sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

I stared. And stared. And stared some more. All this for toilet paper?

Not one, not two, but five employees were talking with Toilet Paper Man, while he tried to prove to them that they were in fact having a sale on toilet paper. And they were hanging onto his every word. They had even given him a catalogue, so he could prove his point.

Thanks guys!

Unfortunately, it took quite a while for him to flip through the darned thing before he discovered the proper page.

He kept flipping and flipping and flipping. And we all watched, mesmerized by this discussion over something as incredible as toilet paper.

Flip. Flip. Flip.

Well, double rolled toilet paper, if you get right down to it.

And all the meanwhile, I could think of nothing else but my two-dozen eggs, gallon of milk, and yogurt surely steaming in the car. There was little doubt in my mind that the eggs would be cooked, the milk would be tepid, and the yogurt would be runny.

Nice – and all for a few dollars worth of toilet paper.

But I was also intrigued: this man was obviously very dedicated to his cause. Perhaps he was on a fixed income; perhaps he just liked to rise a bit of fuss. Maybe his days of military combat were replaced by haggling for free stuff at the military exchange. Perhaps he really DID think he would get free toilet paper. Regardless, he kept hounding his point, focused on getting his rolls.

Finally, after our little line had grown from three customers to six, essentially doubling in size, one of the five assisting store employees took notice, and the Jewelry Counter Lady opened her register at the back of the store.

We made our way through the store again - past the shoes, stars, clothes, candy (M&Ms AND PB cups calling my name, again!), watches, sunglasses, purses, makeup, toilet paper - didn't see if it was on sale - and arrived at the newly opened counter. Second in line.

We paid for our purchases, minus PB M&Ms, PB cups, or Frozen yogurt and made our way into the furnace of the Florida summer afternoon, passing TP Man on the way out. He was still arguing his point, still determined to get his free rolls. If I could have helped out and given him a few dollars to ease his plight, I would have. But I had no change and an overly-hot car with less-than-cold groceries called.

And besides, who was I to judge? I was just as determined to get back to the car as he was to get his free rolls. And I did admire his persistence, his willingness to fight for what he believed was his. Even if he couldn’t find it in the catalogue.

And I had to hand it to the Exchange Employees: they did a great job of helping said gentleman, even though the other customers were ignored for a bit.

In the end, it was okay. Nate and I made it to the car, the groceries were okay, and we were no worse for the wear. The milk is still good, we haven’t died form eating the eggs, and the yogurt was fine when we opened the carton a few days later.

And besides, what do I know? It all ends up in the same place anyway: toilet paper, eggs, milk and yogurt. So there you have it: always interesting what people will fight for when its important. A few days ago, I witnessed a man going after free toilet paper. I wonder what he’s like when it really counts. Then again, TP is very important, especially when you’re out.

So to the gals (and Chris) of STFU: keep the TP in stock and keep up with the oatmeal! Happy training and here's to going after what's important.

No comments: