Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass- it is about learning to dance in the rain.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

1970's Flashback

I don't get away from work and/or my computer much, so this may be old hat to all of you who regularly visit the supermarket. But this morning I inherited the grocery run since my lovely spouse, who usually does this, has a pulled muscle in his back. I rounded the corner and nearly burst out laughing. Naturally, I pulled out my camera (as the people around me stared) and took this picture, still chuckling to myself. (As the people stared more!)

Whenever did we go back to colored toilet paper? And, of course, there's a story:

Flashback to 1975 and coordinated bathroom colors which included the toilet paper! Bathroom tissue came in a rainbow of colors. We were poor enough that I was grateful to have a roof over my head and running water indoors, but I ALWAYS bought paper that matched my bathroom decor. (Oh, I wish I had a picture!!!)

We moved to South American in 1976. In Quito, Ecuador there was a supermarket to shop -- you went along the aisles and put what you wanted into your cart, American-style. There, the TP was wrapped in solid white paper, but I could just pull out the paper and peek for the color. It came in beige, blue, green and a kind of tan which was about the texture of crepe paper.

In July we moved to the jungle village of Santo Domingo de Los Colorados. No supermarket. The main street was a jumble of buildings, cement block squares, wooden structures that looked like displaced tree houses, made from whatever material was available. The doors were garage-type doors (no remote openers), metal pull-down doors. One of the block buildings housed the "farmacia". I walked in to a square room about 15 x 15. Customers stood in a 5 x 5 square foot open space. There were wooden counters on three sides, some boarded up as the glass was broken, and behind the counters old wooden shelves with the merchandise. I waited my turn and more people walked in.

"Papel Higenico, por favor," I request in my best High School Spanish over the buzz of voices behind me. "Y tiene el color azul?" I further ask. (Toilet paper, please. And do you have the blue?)

The clerk drew himself up to his full 4 feet 10 1/2 inch height, puffed out his chest and made a formal pronouncement, "We don't sell by COLOR; we sell by QUALITY." In the silence that followed, I could hear people behind me began to snicker softly. "COLOR does not matter in toilet paper."

Red-faced and anxious to get out of there, I muttered, "Just give me four rolls." (Back then I really didn't like to be stared at. I was embarrassed, not amused.)

Not to lose his moment of glory in teaching this naive American, he asked, "Would you like our BEST quality?"

"Yes, please. Four rolls."

Four rolls, of our BEST papel higienico," he snaps to the boy waiting beside him who quickly scampered to the top of the ladder and brought down four rolls of the BEST QUALITY toilet paper from the top shelf. It was the beige color. And wiser, I made my way down the street to the next little shop to buy shoe laces. Behind me the chatter resumed in the little pharmacy.

A few weeks later, my husband made the toilet paper purchase. (Don't even think it. By then we learned NOT to ask for color.) He had an official from the Ecuadorian church with him. And my husband asked for four rolls of paper.

He was informed by his guest (an Ecuadorian national who assumed much the same posture as my sagacious clerk), "My brother, of course it's fine with me, but if you ever have another pastor with you, it's best not to buy so much. You may be thought to be extravagant by such a large purchase."

My diplomatic husband simply accepted this sage advice.

Do I need to mention that we were a American family of four (two of whom were under age four) recently moved to the tropics, eating strange food, and enduring the sweltering heat in a house without even a fan? We used the bathroom often!!! I'll spare you the details.

So today, I re-lived a bit of 1976 standing there in the supermarket with my camera in hand.
I chuckled as I bought a HUGE package of 12, yes TWELVE rolls of toilet paper wondering what Pastor C would think if he could see me now. AND I bought the blue to go with my newly decorated bathroom!!! I was in an extravagant mood.

Out my window it looked like this

In Santo Domingo the houses were a mixture of this:

and this...but jumbled tightly together and not painted so nicely

(These scenes are Santo Domingo, but taken more recently (YES! These are MODERN!) and I couldn't find one of the main street ANYWHERE!

The counters were a bit like this, but made an "L" around the room. Behind the counter was the clerk and a young boy to climb and get things. I had to make a verbal request for anything I needed.


truth said...

Thanks for sharing this memory, I'm sure you can laugh now. You really were extravagant, I mean a roll for each member of your house?

I can't believe I have not seen colored toilet paper. I've bought Scott brand for year and years. I'll take the pink kind if we ever get it here.

PJ said...

Now, I even laugh at my embarrassment. Today I'd probably just answer, "But I buy by color" and laugh about it. Youth!! One doesn't want to seem dumb when one is young and . . . . dumb? naive?? inexperienced? All of the above???? LOL Today I can usually laugh, even when I do something truly dumb!!

Still Learning said...

I love how visual your posts are. I remember colored toilet paper -especially a colored accent on the rosettes. At our little seminary store we are provided up to 12 double rolls a month for a family of 4. I guess times have changed!

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