Monday, May 29, 2006

Sun Tzu: The Art of (T.P.) War

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
--Sun Tzu

What is it with women and toilet paper, anyway? Men have three uses for toilet paper: butt, nose, and occasionally, a front yard. That's it. Toilet paper is to women, though, what WD-40 is to men: they use it for everything. Gloria uses about five rolls a day. If she needs to blow her nose, she'll strip off about six feet. I'm never sure if she actually uses it for the stated purpose or is just playing dress-up in the bathroom, fashioning some Wuthering Heights-era scarf as she looks wistfully out over the moors.

To blow my nose? Three squares.

Here's the question, though: where does the rest of that toilet paper go? Does she have a secret storage unit somewhere, filled with four miles of carefully folded t.p.? Or has it all, bizarrely, actually been used?

I do know that women use it at bridal showers to make wedding veils. That's the difference between men and women: we think it's funny to use toilet paper to cover someone's yard, pissing off the homeowner. They think it's funny to make clothing.

All warfare is based on deception.
--Sun Tzu

The roll of toilet paper in the upstairs bathroom was almost down to the cardboard tube last week--just a few squares remained--so I did what any sensible man would do: I put a new roll on top of the toilet tank. That way, I could secretly use the new roll until Gloria used the last few squares of the old roll and changed it out.

Replace the roll in the toilet paper holder? Sure, and while I'm at it, why don't I cook Thanksgiving dinner FOR FIFTY PEOPLE.

Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions.
----Sun Tzu

On day two, I looked at the roll on top of the toilet tank. Clearly, it had been used, and not by me. For the first time in ten years, her strategy had changed.

This was an unofficial declaration of t.p. war.

Fine, I thought. I am a master of the lazy, and my indifference is built for the long haul. I know it drives her crazy to have that extra roll of toilet paper on top of the tank. She's fighting a war she doesn't want to fight, against an enemy she can't defeat.

Day three, and more toilet paper is gone from the roll on the tank, and the scrappy cardboard tube still has three squares remaining. As long as the cardboard isn't showing through, it's still technically usable and does not require replacement. The roll on the tank is now nearly half gone.

Invincibility is a matter of defense, vulnerability a matter of attack.
--Sun Tzu

I wait.

On days four and five, she avoids using the upstairs bathroom. The roll on the tank is down to a quarter, at best, and if it's used up, she's backed herself into a t.p. corner. I'll just whip out another roll and put it on the tank, but she can't do that--it's clearly against her longstanding diplomatic position. It would invite anarchy.

On day six, she cracks. The quarter roll that had been on top of the tank is now in the toilet paper holder.


One who is not acquainted with the designs of his neighbors should not enter into alliances with them...Those who come seeking peace without a treaty are plotting.
--Sun Tzu

With less than a quarter roll remaining, it could be only hours before that roll is down to the cardboard. Is this a truce, or just a Trojan roll? Has she just given ground to secure the ultimate victory?

He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.
--Sun Tzu

Sensing a trap, I do the only reasonable thing a man could possibly do in this situation: I put another full roll on top of the tank.

Day seven, and the full roll has been transferred to the toilet paper holder. The quarter roll has been removed.

I consider putting another full roll on the tank--

I have heard of military operations that were clumsy but swift, but I have never seen one that was skillful and lasted a long time. It is never beneficial to a nation to have a military operation continue for a long time.
--Sun Tzu

--but think better of it. There is nobility in the honorable treatment of downed warriors. We must put aside our flags of different nations and join in peace.

The next morning (day eight), I walk into the bathroom. There is a full roll of toilet paper on top of the tank.

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