Forget the Toilet Paper

How the toilet paper shortage can lead to some good

Posted Apr 04, 2020

I was in China several years ago and I had never seen anything like it. Well, actually I had seen something like it, but it wasn’t a toilet seat. Sitting on this Chinese contrivance I thought I was in the command deck of a spaceship.

The seat was larger than any in my experience: on either side of the bowl were numerous dials. I turned one, then another. My bottom was squirted with a stream in one place and by turning a different dial I was sprayed in another area. Different dials adjusted the stream’s pressure and other dials regulated the temperature.

I was sitting on a high-tech toilet bowl and for the next several days I continued to fiddle with this and that dial until I got it exactly the way I wanted.

I never thought I would be writing about the virtues of bidets, but the panic buying of toilet paper during the COVID crisis has prompted me to write about toilets. Of course, Freudians have long thought that bodily processes were at the root of our psychological makeup and some recent psychologists have pointed to disgust as being at the base of some moral decisions.

My concern is different. It is that using toilet paper instead of a bidet is morally a bad choice because of the environmental impact of needing to cut down trees for one-time use paper, and it is personally unhealthy, as pointed out by Kate Murphy.

The COVID pandemic is tragic, but some good can come out of it. Loving even more the ones we already love, reconciling with those from whom we’ve become estranged, sorting what’s important from what isn’t, resolving to become more caring—these are among the many life-altering lessons to be learned at a time of crisis. While not on the same level as these considerations, rethinking the aversion to bidets can be important, too.

I installed a simple bidet a few years ago after friends showed me one in their house. It isn’t as elaborate as the one I used in China. It was cheap and easily installed, being attached to the existing bowl.

We still use some toilet paper but far less than we once did. And when the toilet paper panic began after people realized that they would have to stay indoors for some time, this was one less thing to worry about. It is also good to know that my wife and I are doing a small part in preserving trees, a good thing in helping to keep the air cleaner for everyone.