Sometimes I catch myself thinking about the technology and effort that goes into everyday objects. I am not talking about engineering wonders like cell phones, digital video machines, and flat screen televisions. I am talking about the most mundane items that have hidden bits of technology in their production. Like Toilet paper, good toilet paper.
Have you ever given any serous thought to toilet paper? Toilet paper is really an underappreciated fixture in the home. Sure it is just something to clean up with, but imagine life with out it. Sure toilet paper is a wonderful invention, but what makes it truly remarkable is the ease of use. I am talking about the perforations that separate each sheet. Imagine the engineering that went into the perforations. These perforations could be thought of as a carefully designed point of failure. They are made to break at a given point of stress. If the TP breaks too easily then the paper would not un-roll you would just get single sheets, if it breaks too hard it would require two hands to tear off the length you want. This is especially difficult for right handed people when the dispenser is on the right side of the john (think about it).
Was this magic range of failure arrived at by trail and error or careful engineering? I believe it was the later. Think about it, each toilet paper dispenser is a little different. So the engineers had to find a range of perforation strength to cover the majority of toilet paper dispensers. I am sure this must have taken a great deal of research and testing. Someone probably designed a toilet paper testing robot. In my humble opinion this is the number one sign of quality toilet paper. Sure the softness, absorbency, and if little pieces stick to a bear’s ass are important, but I feel the ease of removing from a roll is just about critical. I want the roll to separate on the perforations at exactly the right time. This is a time when we are most vulnerable, even small issues can have a big impact on the rest of the day. See Zombieland rule #2. Little things like toilet paper utility can make a big impact.
I have always had respect for good engineering. Nothing says good quality better than not noticing when it happens. So here is a heartfelt thank-you to the unseen professionals who do the tedious research and engineering that we all take for granted.
Here is to the designer of the toilet paper perforations. Well done.
I just hope the TP stress testing robot designer gets credit for his contribution to society.