Urban Etiquette: My houseguest replaces the toilet paper roll wrong
I have a houseguest who is extremely thoughtful and helpful. For example, he notices when the garbage or compost is full, and takes it out. But I notice he replaces the toilet paper roll wrong. He installs it with the paper coming out the bottom of the roll instead of over the top. I realize that might be his preference. But shouldn’t he notice how I do it and follow MY example in MY home? I don’t want to complain to him, but I’m afraid if I flip it around, he will feel it as a rebuke. How should I deal with this? — P.K.
You appear to be a classic over-thinker. And while I applaud any kind soul who takes the time to consider another person’s feelings, be careful not to let your empathy machinery veer off-track into paranoia territory.
Believe it or not, some of the people who visit your home simply won’t notice whether you hang your toilet paper over or under. I know this hardly seems possible to perfectionists like us who have our priorities straight when it comes to these grave matters. But if your friend is as thoughtful as you say, I suspect he’s one of the oblivious ones, and therefore he's probably just replacing the roll willy-nilly and not incorrectly in deliberate defiance of your vastly superior over-the-top technique.
As for your worries that he might feel silently rebuked if you flip the roll around, that is not your problem. Assuming he’s oblivious in the first place, he won’t notice which way it’s hanging, as long as there’s enough of it to meet his needs.
If he does notice, he can always bring it up with you if he wants, at which point you can have a rousing discussion of how his under-rolling ways are wrong, and your over-rolling ways are right.
In preparation for this debate, check out “Toilet paper orientation” in Wikipedia, which offers compelling arguments and even some scientific proof for your method. Even readers without problematic houseguests are sure to find this entry a fascinating read, to be enjoyed in any room of your house. Also, please note that anyone who uses Wikipedia more than once a month should be donating at least $15 annually to this valuable, ad-free resource.
Finally, I hope I don’t need to add that, as right as you are about toilet paper orientation, it would be rude to flip the rolls in anyone else’s home. I’m sure you’ve never done this. Or will ever do it again.
Ellen Vanstone is a columnist based in Toronto covering issues around urban etiquette. Need advice? Email Ellen: