Toilet Paper Thieves

Almost daily, I’m made aware of another privilege in life I’ve taken for granted, but I didn’t think the latest one would be the availability of toilet paper rolls. Saturday morning, I noticed our stock was running dangerously low. The only roll in the apartment was the one in the bathroom, and it was looking thin. One strike of the runs and game over.

At the sink, I let Roommate know I’d get some more later that night so we wouldn’t duplicate the effort. (In hindsight, of all the things that lose value throughout your life, toilet paper is not one of them. If you stop needing toilet paper, you probably have more pressing concerns than ten extra rolls that you could use as tissues when you’re sick, if you are like me and don’t respect yourself.)

I’d planned to buy a pack at the Target across the street after studying with Ginger Friend in Rowling Hall, my university’s graduate business building. We ended up staying ten minutes past 11PM, which is when Target closes on Saturdays.

I could have just decided to buy toilet paper the next morning when Target reopened. But my least favorite type of person is one who over-promises (just don’t say you’ll do something if you aren’t sure you can deliver.) I wanted to keep my word, even though no one else cared. I wanted to be an upstanding citizen. I wanted to do the right thing.

I decided to steal a toilet paper roll from Rowling.


More accurately, “borrow.” I’d take a spare roll from the bathroom and replace it the next day after I bought the pack for our apartment. The 497,500-square foot, 186-million-dollar building certainly wouldn’t miss it for a night, or at all.

I told Ginger Friend—who didn’t report me, so I guess he’s complicit—and he waited outside as I entered the bathroom. The rolls were locked.

Too shocked to take a picture, so here’s a photo off Amazon.

There are so many campus bathrooms that just have spare rolls in the stalls, on top of the wastebaskets. I guess not when you have money for toilet paper security. In some sequence of bad decisions, Ginger Friend and I found ourselves walking ten minutes to the undergraduate business building in the cold, dark night to try again. The rolls there were giant and locked in a different sort of dispenser.

Same deal. Pic from

Me: They clearly do this for a reason, but I can’t believe there are real, active toilet paper thieves out there to thwart.

Ginger Friend: I mean, if I’d never have to pay for toilet paper again…

Ginger Friend: Why not just unravel the roll and take the pieces back?

Me: I mean, it’s not like there’s nothing back home. I have Kleenex in a worst-case scenario; I just want to preserve the sanctity of the roll.

Ginger Friend: Using Kleenex is worse than using no toilet paper at all.

Unpacking that bold statement, we walked to the adjacent Waggener Hall, where I actually did remember seeing unprotected toilet paper rolls. We’d have better luck with underfunded departments, which is cruel because not only do they lack funding but they also can’t keep their bathroom essentials. The doors to the building, however, were locked.

I almost walked to the gym, but Ginger Friend assured me it was closed.

Ginger Friend: I think you undervalued the option of just unraveling the toilet paper.

Me: Many mistakes were made tonight.

It was a little past midnight when I got home, and I placed two squares of toilet paper (all I had left in my room from when I’d been sick last month) on top of the sad-looking roll. The next morning, the squares had been used, and I bought a new pack the moment Target opened at 8.

All was well. Naturally, in the ensuing week, every bathroom stall I entered had rolls upon rolls of extra toilet paper. I texted a photo to Ginger Friend from a stall in the alumni center. Unfortunate that the alumni receive more perks than current students, but I hope they know how good they have it.


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Last post: What A Trip

8 thoughts on “Toilet Paper Thieves

    1. Someone on the FB page had a similar response. “I can’t believe you questioned why college buildings have toilet paper security while contemplating stealing toilet paper.”


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