Times are tough. You can tell by peeking in the bathroom.
The plight of a person’s checkbook can be told by the ply of his toilet paper, according to economists.
I’m not sure when economics schools began teaching toilet paper as a financial barometer, but there it is.
As the economy continues to shrivel like it’s sucking on lemons, we are left to squeeze pennies any way possible until Mr. Lincoln cries. Or at least wriggles a lot.
According to some of the latest news stories, toilet paper is joining the list of luxuries.
This scares me. Think of the implications as we empty the bathroom of products we no longer can afford.
I realize that in some parts of the world, the familiar-to-us rolls are not rolled out. I visited one of those nations once. I carried a pack of tissues in my shirt pocket.
It didn’t smell like they’d heard of deodorant, either. This was one of those arid countries with lots of sand and sweat, and when about 100 of us crowded onto an old, boxy airplane, my nostrils wilted and my eyes watered.
But if the economy continues to flush, will deodorant once again be considered a luxury like it was when invented in 1888?
What about soap? Instead of buying the brand our olfactories fancy, will our fresh scents soon change to sale of the week?
Or will the economy create a whole new category of theft rings as desperate people fill sandwich bags from the dispensers at work?
“What’s in the Baggie?” the narcotics agent will ask.
“Oh, OK, then. You know, the place across the street stocks their restrooms with Ivory if you prefer.”
Perhaps as a cost-cutting measure we might have to eliminate shampoo. If so, some people — and by “people,” I mean some women I have known — might be forced to finish the bottles they already have.
I have at various times in my life lived in households that included the cleaner-smelling sex, and I have compared notes with other guys who have done the same. Many of these ladies change their shampoo flavors every two weeks for reasons we do not understand.
Then somehow it becomes our job to turn bottoms up on the discards.
So one week, I might reek of strawberry parfait, vanilla misted coconuts the next and lilacs and gardenias after that. It’s embarrassing.
Thanks to the economy, no more. We’ll probably shampoo in dish soap instead.
That is, of course, if we can get to the shower. To save money, we’ll be rinsing our clothes in the sink and hanging them over the shower rod to dry.
Of course, showers may tap too heavily into the water bill. I hope we don’t have to go back to a situation I faced as a kid: Mom drew one tub of hot water and we kids took turns at quick baths. You did not want to be last in line. Not only was your water cold, but you could surface dirtier than when you dove in.
So I fear that the toilet paper economics people are right. We CAN tell the state of our finances by the state of our bathrooms.
Please, Mr. Obama, stop draining the bailout money into banks that are hoarding it. For all that’s good and decent, send the cash to our bathrooms! The nostrils of our neighbors and co-workers depend on it!