There was something of a kerfluffle yesterday when an old document emerged from the US Patent office showing a diagram of a "new idea" — putting perforations in a roll of toilet paper to make it easier to pull off a reasonable amount of paper. That’s so much the “way of things” today that no one thought anything of it. But what was shocking was the diagram that showed the paper unrolling from to top — or “over” the roll. Apparently many households still argue about this today — whether the proper form is “over” or “under”, and people are passionate about their preferences. Here was proof that the “over” crowd was right, and members of the “under” crowd were hopelessly misguided.
I first giggled at those who could get so upset over such a minor detail. (See a blog posting from a few days ago (Friday, March 13th) when I asked where all the anger was coming from!) And then I checked my house. Yep, I’m vindicated; I’m an “over.” But why?
Then I began to look at the problem logically, and when I did so, I realized that all four of my OLD cats have had a part in this decision. I remembered their kittenhoods vividly. Every kitten I’ve ever owned (and I use that term advisedly!) has passed through a stage of playing with the toilet paper roll. Invariably we ended up with a pile of unwound paper on the floor. The only solution was to use the “under” routine until the kittens got the silliness out of their systems. Then we changed because the paper was easier for us to reach if it came "over."
How does a cat unwind the paper, and what makes it so much fun? The movement is always the same. The cat stands on its hind legs and uses its front paws to make the roll spin. And the paw movement is always downward, from top to bottom. If the loose end comes over the top of the roll, the paper comes loose and falls to the floor. What would happen if the loose end comes from underneath?
Nothing. To make it unwind, the cat would have to push up from bottom to top, a most unnatural motion.
Therefore I have to argue against the correctness of the diagram so widely distributed yesterday. It just may be that the decision is dependent upon whether the household does, or does not, have a normally curious and playful kitten.