Tag Archives: China

Toilet Paper:  The Key to Civilization (Including a Brief History)

As we learned recently, the key to our civilization is toilet paper.  With it, we are a civilized world superpower.  Without it, we crumble like a third world country into chaos.  When Americans are faced by a potential tragedy – hurricane, flood, or apocalypse – the first thing they reach for is toilet paper – not guns, potatoes, or the Bible – but toilet paper!  When did you last see panic driven hoarders frantically pushing grocery buggies full of guns, potatoes, or Bibles out of stores in the wake of an impending disaster?  Likely, never, but if you are not careful during an apocalyptic event, you will get run over by buggies piled high with toilet paper.  In America, toilet paper is the anchor that holds common sense in place.  Without toilet paper, Americas react like lemmings rushing over the edge of a cliff.

Some of us might think such behavior is ridiculous and shake our heads and point sadly, even angrily, at the folks who strip store shelves bare of toilet paper with no regard for anyone’s hygiene but their own.  We console ourselves with the delusion civilized people do not act that way; however, that is exactly how civilized people act.  One of the greatest differences between man and animals is the ability to wipe your rear, and in that difference lies the foundation of what we think of as civilization.  People housed in a civilized bubble often speak eloquently of embracing “all for one” and “one for all” as the foundation of civilization, but history bears the truth is actually closer to “all for self-preservation” and protecting the ability to wipe at all costs as the true foundations of civilization.  Therefore, before we get too upset with the actions of hoarders, maybe we should first slow down and realize they are actually doing their part to preserve civilization as we know it.

The number one use of toilet paper is wiping the bottom post-dumping.  There is nothing more civilized or personal.  When anything endangers our ability to wipe, people panic and rightfully so.  Have you ever finished your business in the bathroom and discovered the toilet paper roll was empty?  Unless a person is built in the mold of a saint, when that happens, they would not think twice of taking the last toilet tissue square from the hands of their mama or the saint for that matter.  There is nothing more frightening and uncivilized as getting stuck on the pot with no toilet paper!  Other than eating, wiping your bottom with toilet paper is the most essential task in a home, and frankly in a business, or on a cross country trip as well.  Americans can go days without eating, but a day without toilet paper is an end-of-time pestilence.  We use toilet paper to wipe our rear, blow our nose, line the toilet seat, stuff bras and pants, and roll yards.  No self-respecting teenager in America would dare be caught without at least one twelve pack of toilet paper in the trunk of the car in case of a rolling emergency.  So, let’s get real!  Toilet paper is the foundation of our existence as civilized people.  It is all that keeps us a notch above the animals.  Therefore, are we truly angry at the toilet paper hoarders, or are we simply pissed-off we did not get there first to do our part in saving civilization?

The good thing is eventually hoarding and toilet paper scarcities end and become a distant memory.  Like the origins of wiping, scooping, and washing, the latest chapter in waste management becomes little more than a footnote in history.  Until the next disaster threatens civilization as we know it and shelves of two ply then single ply toilet paper are once again wiped clean, life returns to normal.  Once normalcy is restored, the story of civilization and who first squeezed the Charmin matters only to history:

A Short History of Toilet Paper

  • 1800 B.C. – The Mayans discovered the use of corn cobs as poop removers and their civilization was born.
  • 200 A.D. – The first paper making process was developed in China not for writing but for wrapping and disposing of poo. Prior to that the Chinese used silk gloves to freshen up.
  • 601 A.D. – Paper wrapped poo became a huge disposal issue in China. As a solution, in the 7th century, The Great Wall of China was built using baked bricks of paper wrapped poo as building blocks, which proved to be extremely economical.
  • 1300 A.D. – The Aztecs create the first perfumed corn cobs making it possible for large numbers of people to congregate in one area thereby making large cities more practical and livable.
  • 1391 A.D. – Perfumed paper wipes, the first actual toilet paper, was created for the Chinese Emperor’s family. The resulting heavenly smell of the Emperor and his family gave rise to their status as gods.
  • 1450 A.D. – Paper became widely available in Europe, so newspaper became a popular choice of toilet paper, which gave rise to the term “Yellow Journalism.”
  • 1500 A.D. – The Spanish invaded Central America and with newspapers in short supply in the New World, there was a severe corn cob shortage, which had a dramatic impact on the Aztecs and led to the demise of their civilization.
  • 1587 A.D. – The first commercially packaged toilet paper sheets were created by Joseph C. Gayetty. The toilet paper was medicated with aloe and Gayetty’s name was printed on each sheet.  This was the forerunner of today’s toilet paper with novelty printing.
  • 1879 A.D. – Walter Alcock created perforated toilet paper on a roll instead of flat sheets, and Scott Paper Company sold the first toilet paper rolls. That same year Sargent Dixwell, Headmaster at Boston Latin School in Boston Massachusetts became the first headmaster/principal to have his house rolled with toilet paper.
  • 1935 A.D. – The first splinter free toilet paper was invented by Northern Tissue. This new invention was praised by consumers but frowned on by manufacturers of underwear and tweezers.  Fewer tweezers and underwear were sold!  For the first time in history, there were no splinters when wiping nor did splinters rip and tear holes in undergarments.  Underwear using a thinner fabric that developed holes and tore easily was reintroduced several years later as a Christmas promotion by profit hungry undergarment companies.
  • 1973 A.D. – The United States amid a gas and onion shortage had its first toilet paper shortage. Comedian Johnny Carson joked about toilet paper being the next shortage on The Tonight Show, and the next day shelves in stores across the nation were wiped clean as people went hysterical buying and hoarding toilet paper.  There is no record of people hoarding onions at the time.
  • 2020 A.D. – Faced with the Coronavirus that attacked the respiratory system, Americans panicked and stripped stores of toilet paper. The connection to the respiratory system and the excretory system that led to the run on toilet paper is still being studied, but of course, we know the reason was to save civilization.

The history of toilet paper is a roadmap to man’s journey as a civilized human being.  As stated previously, the greatest difference between man and animals is the ability to wipe, and when that ability is threatened, mankind gives way to panic.  We are human beings, and as such, we will go to great lengths to protect the sanctity of our home and civilization, and if that means hoarding toilet paper at the expense of others, so be it.  We are the protectors of the porcelain throne and toilet paper is our banner flapping from under our skirt, from the heel of our shoe, the lump in our pants, and the swaying branch of a tree.  Take away toilet paper, America’s banner, and bring America to its knees.  Without toilet paper, we like the Aztecs cease to function as a civilized society.

See you in the history books.

©Jack Linton, April 1, 2020

JL

The Trip of a Lifetime:  The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

The third stop of our trip was unbelievable!  We journeyed a couple of miles up the road from The Badlands National Park to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.  What we found there was one of the most fascinating adventures anyone in our group has ever experienced.  The Site is comprised of a not to be missed visitor center, a missile silo (Launch Facility Delta 09) with a missile still in the silo (It has been defanged), and a command center (Launch Control Facility Delta 01) just down the road.  Although the visitor center and the missile silo are must visits, the highlight of the historic site is the Delta 01 tour.  The tour of the once top secret underground command center, the center from which the fate of the world lay in the hands of twenty something year-old kids (trained young men, but kids nevertheless), was eye opening, frightening, and one of the most remarkable tours I have seen.

The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site tour is a relatively new tour, and it is by reservation only.  People who stop at the site expecting to book a tour on their day of arrival are likely to be turned away.  The tour is usually booked solid for three to four weeks in advance and sometimes longer, so anyone wishing to book the tour should do so weeks, preferably months in advance, to ensure a spot on the tour.  Why is the tour so popular?  First, it takes you thirty feet underground to visit a Minuteman Missile operation center that few people have ever seen; second, you get to enter the small command module buried thirty feet underground where teams of two men worked three-day shifts waiting for coded orders authorizing them to insert their individual keys into the doomsday machine that would have launched Minuteman ballistic missiles and ignited World War III.  It is a little disconcerting to think encased inside eighteen inches of steel and concrete layers designed to survive earthquakes and nuclear blasts you are standing in a place that once held life, as we know it, and the end of time in balance; three, the tour is conducted by veterans who were there and know the inside details; and fourth, the tour is limited to six people per tour, which provides easier access to the guide to clearly hear what he says as well as to ask questions.

Having scheduled our tour three months in advance, we drove straight to the tour site as directed.  The tour began the moment we arrived at the gate of a desolate yellow-tan building hidden in plain sight off South Dakota’s Interstate 90 down a dirt and gravel road.  Surrounded by chain-link fence topped by barbed wire, we found ourselves in the world of a Tom Clancy novel, only this was not fiction.  This highly secret command center was once home to a contingent of eight security and maintenance men above ground, a cook, and two teams of two men who alternated three day shifts thirty feet underground with the fate of the world in their hands.  These two men held the keys to launching up to ten Minuteman missiles, each with a 1.2 megaton thermonuclear warhead anchored to its top.  This one site had the capability to launch its missiles with pin-point accuracy anywhere in the world the moment it received the proper orders, codes, and firing sequences from the President of the United States.  Thank God, such orders were never given although the fabulous exhibits at the Minuteman Missile Historic Site visitor center show how close we were to nuclear war on more than one occasion.  It is chilling to think we were almost never here!

As ordered, we arrived at the tour site at 10:10 a.m., thirty minutes prior to our tour time.  At precisely 10:40 a.m., our military escort/guide appeared at the ten-foot chain-link gate.  Air Force Colonel (retired) Brad Riza, a regular visitor to the site during its heyday in the 1960s to 1990s, was our commanding officer for the tour.  After a brief debriefing outside the gate, Colonel Riza led our party of six, the four in our group and a couple from California, inside the building to tour the facility.

Colonel Riza gave a masterful tour, and his pride in his country and the role he played in the Minuteman Missile era was unquestionable.  He spoke in detail of the Cold War between the United States and Russia (Soviet Union), and how the missiles acted as a line of defense for the nation and as a deterrent to the Soviets or any other aggressor who might threaten a nuclear attack against America or its allies.  The missile field was scattered across the central and northern Great Plains of America next door to ranchers, farmers, and small towns.  Their purpose was to protect the freedoms and posterity of the American people as well as allied nations around the world.

One thousand Minuteman missiles were deployed during the last twenty-five years of the Cold War.  If launched the Minuteman Missile would travel over the North Pole and strike its target in less than thirty seconds.  However, within seconds of the launch, missiles would be incoming in retaliation.  There was only one guarantee if these weapons were used – the aggressor and the target nation would both be destroyed, which made an attack by either side unthinkable.  The greatest deterrent to nuclear war – the only trump card the people on either side of the Cold War could depend – was there would be no winners!  Therefore, why play if nobody could win?

Colonel Riza spoke of the Minuteman missiles as a deterrent not as a weapon of aggression, but primarily he spoke of the rigors and stress the young men (many barely in their twenties) endured while stationed in the missile fields.  They spent long mentally draining hours isolated from family and friends, not knowing if they might have to turn the key that would ultimately destroy the world and all they loved.  These men were forbidden to talk to family and friends about their job with the Air Force.  Faced with protocols that meant strict adherence or immediate court martial, imprisonment, or even death, they lived in a vacuum absent of any normalcy most young men enjoyed.

Part of Colonel Riza’s job was to evaluate the metal condition of the men assigned to the doomsday computers buried deep beneath the yellow-tan building on the surface.  There was no room for error or departure from protocol.  Violate protocol and orders were clear – shoot to kill even if it was the cook, your best friend, or the Colonel.  The survival of the nation was at state; everything else was collateral damage including human life in the bunker or outside the bunker.  There were no second chances!  The fate of the country depended on these young men to execute their orders without hesitation or error.  From 1963 to 1991, the fate of the United States depended on the threat of nuclear retaliation as a deterrent to Soviet Union aggression.  Finally, in 1991, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was signed by President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to reduce the number of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and nuclear warheads effectively ending the Cold War.

Today, there are no active ICBM silos in South Dakota, but 400 Minuteman Missiles are still deployed across the upper Great Plains of the United States.  The Russians have a like number spread across their country.  Even though the Cold War has subsided, nuclear missiles intended as a deterrent remain on alert in the United States and Russia.  The biggest difference is today it is no longer a two-nation dance.  China, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and others have all bought tickets and are clamoring to get on the dance floor.  This escalation means the Minuteman missiles are more important than ever, and they will remain on alert through at least 2050.  Hopefully, by then the world will have come to its senses.

Every American needs to visit The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site!  The story it tells is a story everyone needs to hear.  All of us have one life, one family, and one country; to jeopardize any of the three with nuclear weapons is the sign of a madman.  We have lived as madmen long enough, but unfortunately, the day of the madman does not appear to be over.  Therefore, I take comfort there are men such as Colonel Brad Riza and thousands of young men who give up their youth and innocence in the service of our country to ensure our freedom and way of life.

Thank you, Colonel Riza for your service and for a great tour!  May God continue to bless you, our country, and the young men and women who serve our country 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours per day.

God bless America!  Americans, if you can, GO visit the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota.  It might scare you, but it will make you proud to be an American.

JL

©Jack Linton, July 23, 2017