Toilet paper is known by many names. In Boy Scouts we brought it along as the eleventh of the ten essentials. During the same period of my youth, we insulted each other with it’s more descriptive pseudonym, “butt wipe.” My college dorm-mate admittedly had issues with using it effectively, so it went without a name in that case. Some people crumple and some people fold.
It has its place in comedy — I know no less than two jokes (though maybe two versions of the same joke) who’s punchline includes it as “important papers.” And it has its place in language learning — in Chile it’s known as “confort” (cognate of the English “comfort”), though that just happens to be the most popular brand, like how asking for Kleenex really means any facial tissue close at hand. The formal Spanish word is “papel higenico” which I find too hygienic and nondescript.
So it’s known by many names, but lucky for us, Venezuela offers more than just a choice of names. We are also given choice of flavor. Think of as many laundry detergent scents as you can, and then transfer those same odors to toilet paper…We’ve got ’em all. Pinemeadowbabyflowerrainlemonmountainair. To be sure, making a choice amid such variety can be difficult for anyone. But for me, the difficulty is compounded by the everlasting frustration of never being able to find a non-scented variety. There simply must be no demand for plain TP.
It’s hard to figure why it would be this way. It’s not a money thing: companies can’t charge more because papel higenico is price controlled. It’s probably not a style thing: it’s true that Venezuelans enjoy a flashy style, but I doubt it runs this deep. So perhaps the real reason is practical: the scent craze most likely came about because people don’t flush their TP here. Every toilet has it’s little trash bin, the use of which, I must confess, has not become a habit for me. Perhaps with time I’ll catch on.