Let’s Talk Paper Towels

Paper towel roll on stand


Around ten o’clock today, I took my usual coffee break at work. My eight o’clock coffee had just begun to wear off, so to prevent any sort of unfortunate incidents due to a lack of caffeine, I headed to the break room for preventative caffeination.

As I poured a cup of mediocre but nevertheless energizing coffee, I witnessed a strange conversation. There, off to the side, stood the office cleaning lady along with another employee.

“I love Viva paper towels,” said the employee to the cleaning lady. The cleaning lady whole-heartedly agreed. The employee took it a step further. “Brawny is terrible compared to Viva!” Bold move on her part.

Fortunately for her, the cleaning lady nodded in agreement, alleviating any chance of paper towel-favoring awkwardness. “You know where you should go,” said the cleaning lady. “Sam’s. They have huge packages of Viva. That’s where I get all of my paper towels.”

Aside from the peculiarity of a paper towel related conversation, I was suddenly aware of something: everyone talks about their job all the time to everyone. Her job is paper towel related and, by golly, she is going to discuss it with anyone who will listen.

This shouldn’t surprise me. When I worked at a restaurant in college, people were frequently forced into conversations about kitchen supplies and proper cooking techniques. When I worked at a bank, I often got into financial conversations. It had never dawned on me, though, that people who empty trash and clean up messes throughout the day would talk about that. I figured they hated cleaning as much as I do and would be happy to never talk about it again.

My eyes were suddenly opened. People everywhere would have interesting job related stories that only the people in the know would truly appreciate. I could imagine the Drain Doctor from down the street getting together with the Drain Surgeon, the Pipe Proctologist, and all of his other plumbing buddies and talking about the new Mueller Streamline PVC elbow joint or the pain that 1/8” brass compression sleeve can be.

(Side note: If you call yourself the Drain Doctor, do you tell people you are a plumber at your high school reunion? It seems like the name would conveniently allow you to say you are a “doctor.” Of course if pressed on it, that could become awkward. I guess you could say something vague like “I make sure everything is flowing smoothly inside.” That’s what I would do. Maybe I should come up with a doctor related title for my job…)

Of course, this realization caused another issue. Why was my coworker speaking with such gusto about paper towels? Did she long to be a cleaning lady? Maybe she was jealous of the freedom that such a job entails. If I were the current cleaning lady, I would keep all of my paper towel related secrets to myself, lest this person try to steal my job.

I stood there drinking my coffee as the two finished their conversation. The employee returned to her desk to do whatever it is she does over there. The cleaning lady finished emptying the trash and replacing paper towels and headed on her way to another break room adventure.

Maybe I should do paper towel research in case one of these conversations sucks me in sometime in the future. I would look like a complete idiot.

“Uh…I like the paper towels that are on sale.”

This, of course, is the wrong answer and only an answer that a complete dolt like myself would give. The cleaning lady would laugh at me with all of her cleaning friends, talking about how stupid I am. They would probably call me mean names like “Cheap Paper Towel boy” or “Big Dumb Cottoneller.” I, of course, would not understand these were an insult, making me look even stupider. Eventually, there would be inside jokes like “that guy wipes up like Nathan.”

Paper towels come with a lot of pressure…




20 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Paper Towels

  1. I have come to the conclusion that you are a prolific writer. Which pleases me. I adore getting my tri-weekly dose of The Life and Times of Nathan Badley. Paper towels! I definitely have a preference. I like Viva because they are not the cheap, nasty Home Brand ones, but they are not the mega expensive Kleenex ones, but still do the job. (yes, an ex cleaner, I am!) And yes, I have MANY bus-related converstations and stupid-people-related conversations. Stupid people and bus transport tend to go hand in hand. Like the time I pulled up at a stop (the only bus number on that route so it was pretty much a dead cert that these passengers were waiting for me, and me alone). I opened the door and looked at the ten assembled sad examples of humanity. I looked at them, and waited, and looked at them, and waited, and closed the door and drove off. As I drove off, they all lept to life as if ” gee! The bus didn’t wait for us!” It was as if they had not even seen this jumbo yellow vehicle pull up besides them and open it’s doors with a clatter to let them in. The lady behind me said “did you see that? What on earth was that!” I said ” yep, and I don’t believe it! ” She gave me her phone number just incase they made a complaint. but.. GEE! Stupid people!


  2. I, also, use Viva and Viva alone. They are soft yet strong. You can tear off a half-sheet or a whole. They have the perfect texture. They don’t fall apart when wet. Viva is definitely the superior paper towel and all other brands of paper towels should bow down to its existence. Kat


  3. Hi Nathan. Thanks for linking to us at Trash Backwards. As you can see, I go completely paper towel free! It’s a sure conversation-starter (or stopper as the case may be), and saves you (and your workplace) a ton of money. No need for those ‘quicker-picker-uppers’ if you’ve got a few tea towels hanging about. But then the cleaning ladies would have to become laundry ladies unless you volunteered to launder the tea towels at home. Then you could enter into a bonafide conversation with them, discussing your favorite laundry detergent. Unless you make your own like we do…
    —Liesl at blog.trashbackwards.com


  4. It’s always healthy to see other people’s lives from their perspective — the pride of the widget-maker, for example. I once spoke at a convention of manure-spreader manufacturers. Who knew? Great piece.


  5. Hilarious, Nathan. Absolutely hilarious – because it’s so true! People *do* talk about their jobs, no matter what those jobs may be! LOL


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