The thing is, the little thingy is missing

The Baltimore Sun

I don't know how it is possible to lose the little spring-loaded tube that holds a standard toilet paper roll in a wall dispenser, but it recently happened in our house. Because this is not an item that falls into the needs-replacement-urgently category, I figured we could all deal with the roll of toilet paper sitting on the vanity or tank for a few days until we found the missing roll-holder thingy.

After searching the wastebasket, linen closet and bathroom cabinets to no avail, I convinced myself that the expandable white cylinder would soon turn up in someone's backpack, purse or coat pocket - though I couldn't imagine why. It is one of those items that, in addition to being nameless, has only one conceivable function, which is to hold toilet paper. Why would someone take it? Who would need one in school or at the office?

I was increasingly confounded by its lingering absence, and after a few days I demanded answers.

Naturally, no one had seen it. "No one" had also seen a decorative knob missing from the same bathroom cabinet.

Now that we have a dog, it is easy to blame him for missing items, because he does not speak (yet) and cannot offer the traditional "I didn't do it!" And I suppose it is possible that, come springtime, there will be a gradual unearthing of missing bathroom accessories in our backyard. There is some irony in that, because the backyard is essentially our dog's personal bathroom, and perhaps he felt it needed accessorizing. I will know for sure only if I find the toothbrush holder buried in the garden next.

When a week had passed and I realized that we might never find the toilet-paper-holder device or the cabinet pull, I thought I would shop for them on one errand. I drove to an upscale home-improvement store - the kind where you can find decorator accents as well as basics. After wandering around with no luck in the plumbing department for a few minutes, I decided to look for a salesperson to help me. The store was rather empty, but I could hear a conversation a few aisles over, so I walked toward the sound in the hopes of finding someone.

I turned the corner, and I suddenly came upon the most unexpected of tableaux: two salesmen, chatting while sitting on the display toilets.

Well, I have to say they looked as comfortable as could be, holding a sort of meeting and going over things on clipboards while relaxing on the designer toilets. They didn't see me right away, and I felt a little intrusive and out of place, though the deluxe toilets were indeed the only available seats.

Still, there was no getting around the fact that I was a woman who had come upon two fully clothed men sitting on toilets. I decided to use my handy wit to announce my presence in the aisle and defuse the situation.

"I have to say that this is definitely one of those times when I wish I had a camera," I quipped.

But this was not funny - it only highlighted the fact that I had interrupted them in a weird public-yet-private moment. Upon reflection, perhaps "Don't forget to flush!" would have been funnier. Or even "How many times have I told you boys to shut the door?" At any rate, they hopped up immediately with sheepish looks on their faces.

I tried to describe what I was searching for.

"You know that little tension-release bar that goes inside a roll of toilet paper?" I said.

"Sorry, you won't find that in this store," one man said. "You have to go to a regular hardware store for that."

"Oh, well," I said, "thanks anyway."

And then I had to muster all my self-control to refrain from adding:

"Sorry for interrupting you doing your business."

Contact Janet at janet@janetgilbert.net.

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