Toilet paper

In a continuation of my potty posts, I bring you the story of the toilet paper. This is not a weird injury story! Rather, this is a story from my days as Systems Manager at The Shelbyville News.


The Shelbyville News was a small Paxton newspaper in Shelbyville, Indiana. The joke in town was that it was actually the Shelbyville Newsletter–due in part to the nature of the content. They threw in AP and Reuters stories from time to time, but mostly, it was “gossipy”, newsletter-ish content. Basically, it was your typical small town newspaper.

When I started, I took a pay-cut and a step back in technology, but that was OK because I was 12 miles from work. As a single dad, it was more important for me to be close to home than to make a lot of money. Prior to the Shelbyville News I was a desktop analyst at a school corporation that had cutting edge computer systems. The Shelbyville News, on the other hand, was using servers that were nearly as old as me. Needless to say, there wasn’t a lot of money coming in to buy the biggest and best. So, we always had to squeeze as much blood from the turnip as possible.

Budget Meetings

Every year, all of the department managers met for several weeks or months to discuss the upcoming budget. As “Systems Manager”, I was considered a manager over a department of 4–ad builders and layout specialists. The meetings were mostly pointless for me because my budget was non-existent, but my expenditures higher than anyone’s. I was never given a budget, but I also managed some of the most important resources–the servers. So, when a server or computer died, we HAD to replace it.

Nonetheless, I still had to attend the meetings. During my that first budget year, the “hot” topic was the cost of supplies–namely toilet paper. The building manager’s budget was running over every month and the culprit was toilet paper. People were using too much. Costs were rising exponentially. We were wasteful. We heard it all over a period of about 6 weeks. For 6 long weeks, the publisher spent about 30 minutes of each meeting hashing out the problem. It was all very ridiculous.

I mean, really. How do you regulate toilet paper usage in a corporate environment? It grew very tiresome very quickly and I wasn’t the only one that thought so. I could tell by the looks on everyone’s faces that they were OVER it. So, on that 6th week I offered an idea.

Pay for it

When I raised my voice in that 6th budget meeting, I could see the fear on everyone’s faces! They all knew I had a “sarcastic” side and that I’d often diffuse a situation with humor. My idea: take out all of the toilet paper dispensers and install coin operated ones. You have to go the bathroom, then it’ll cost you 5 cents per sheet–something like that. Paul liked this idea and was starting to talk about options, fees, etc. Unfortunately, I interrupted him. “What about deadline, Paul?” Confused he asked what I meant. “Well, what happens when we’re rushing to meet deadline and Bill [the editor] has to go to the bathroom an he has no money? It would all be very distracting to customers in the lobby to have him yelling out of the bathroom for a dime.”

The meeting ended right there. We never discussed toilet paper again. EVER! I also wasn’t invited to any more budget meetings.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: