“Honey,” I say, taking my wife’s hands in mine and looking into her eyes with all the affection I can muster, “I love you with all my heart. Keeping that in mind, I want to let you know the next time I go to use the bathroom and find a roll of toilet paper with only three sheets left on it — I’m leaving you.”
She tells me she doesn’t want to waste the remaining paper by throwing it out unused. I respond by asking what exactly can three sheets of toilet paper be used for? I suggest if thrift is her concern then perhaps she could use it to blow her nose, or remove some lipstick, or wipe the smudges off her phone screen and then install a fresh roll with a clear conscience. She says those all sound like silly suggestions to her. I offer another suggestion: if she doesn’t come up with some solution — soon — then the next time this happens I will signal my displeasure by using those three sheets to start a small bonfire in the bathroom.
She says that’s ridiculous. I counter that it’s no more ridiculous than leaving a useless remnant of a toilet paper roll in place and expecting the next occupant to assume the responsibility for replacing it at a particularly inconvenient moment.
She says I’m not being fair; there are plenty of times when she finishes the roll and replaces it with a new one. I concede that *sometimes* she does that, but that leads to another concern — why do I find the empty cardboard center perched on the edge of the sink? “It’s recyclable,” she informs me. “Yes,” I acknowledge. “I am well aware of that, and applaud you for your awareness of the environmental impact. But this is my question: how exactly do you expect that roll to be introduced into the Reuse-Reduce-Recycle triad without actually placing it in the recycling bin?”
She responds that she *intends* to place the empty roll in the recycling bin but occasionally just forgets. I remind her that the road to You Know Where (we used to say “Hell,” but now we say “the Trump White House”) is paved with good intentions. She looks at me with exasperation and asks why I am making such a big deal out of such a little thing. I say the future of our planet is not a “little thing.” She tells me she’s getting tired of dealing with my hyperbole. I tell her I’m getting tired of her unwillingness to consider how finding three useless sheets hanging limply, or a forlorn cardboard tube teetering on the edge of the sink, and then having to deal with those situations ON TOP OF everything else I am responsible for around the house drives me nuts.
Now the gloves come off. She asks me just WHAT exactly are all my “responsibilities” around the house? I start to tick off the list: empty the dishwasher, scoop out the cat litter, do all the laundry that’s OK to go in the dryer, refill the bird feeders that she can’t reach… I tell her I’m just providing the highlights here; there is more but at the moment I am taken aback by her challenge to recite it all from memory. Then I offer this clincher: “There are LOTS of things I take care of that YOU WON’T HANDLE.” A slight smirk slowly creases Carol’s face as she composes her response: “What exactly do you have to deal with that I can’t take care of myself?” I look her straight in the eye and state, “I handle paying all the bills, and I file our taxes every year. I’ve never seen you even TRY to sign into our online banking or the tax program, much less take care of the monthly bills or our annual returns.” Carol smacks herself in the forehead while rolling her eyes and says, “That’s because you’re the one who set up all the computer-based accounts WITHOUT TELLING ME WHAT ANY OF THE PASSWORDS ARE! I’ve asked you to write them down for me and you NEVER DO!” I inform her that writing down passwords is not a secure way to share them. I think I see a look of disbelief on her face just before she turns away from me. I realize that, correct as I may be, I have trod onto thin ice and attempt to gingerly work my way back to safer ground.
“Honey,” I say, with all the affection I can muster, “I’m not trying to start an argument here.”
“Oh, I think it’s too late for that.”
“Well… be that as it may. Let’s see if we can come to an agreement — you accept your responsibility for replacing the toilet paper and getting the empty roll all the way into the recycling bin, and I’ll promise to try and not shrink your yoga pants again. Doesn’t that sound reasonable?”
Carol’s been up in the bedroom with the door locked for several hours now, so she must be giving my proposal some serious thought. I’ve been using this time productively by unspooling all the rolls of toilet paper stored in the linen closet and writing “REMEMBER TO RECYCLE ME! :-)” with a marker on the cardboard cores. I’m also reverse-numbering the corners of the sheets so it’s clear when we get down to those last three useless squares. I just hope I can get all the paper wrapped back around the tubes before she comes downstairs. I can’t wait to witness her response to my latest innovation in the name of household efficiency.