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John Boston | Toilet Paper in the Time of Cholera…

John Boston

We are living in Victor Hugo times, except, so far, our tragedies seem somewhat junior varsity. No walls of human corpses to furtively stroll past. No Mongol hordes to flee.

Well. Yet.

Survival depends on unearthing an unseen gem on Netflix. 

I was chatting with one of my old-time absolute best friends over the phone Wednesday. 




He said this was a day where time would be well-spent watching a weed grow.

I’ve been walking daily, a delight I had misplaced. There’s been so much to do. Bills to pay. Mouths to feed. Deadlines. All of us, we swallow daily hundreds of heaping spoonfuls of the twin poisons: Should and Shouldn’t. I’m not talking egomania. But we’re not very kind to ourselves.

I walked in the rain this week. Took out the umbrella and strolled along a dirt road carrying the biggest, dopiest smile. Raindrops were softly pelting puddles. An unnamed weed was bouncing under the tiny blows of water from heaven. The air was delicious. When I got back home, an email from a gal pal was waiting. She inquired. When did Toilet Paper become our New Currency?

A scene has played out over and over in our stores. You see glum shoppers laboriously pushing carts overflowing with Toilet Paper and not all these people can be Irish-Catholic with several hundred unscrubbed offspring waiting in one overstuffed minivan in the parking lot.

My friend’s question was a two-parter.

She wanted to know what local Indians used to complete their lavatory duties before The Days of Toilet Paper.

I wrote: “Slow-witted rabbits.”

I can’t speak with authority about our own and now-extinct Amerindian SCV forbearers and certainly not our fivebearers. But, the basic Martha Stewart was Indians used the Right Hand/Rinse With Stream Water Method. I’ve read that American tribes collected cottonwood fluff and stored it baskets or leather pouches for when the need arrived.

I’ve heard Democrats in San Francisco can earn a hefty six figures doing that today.

Thanks to eons of bad TV Westerns, we get a picture that Indians weren’t big on cleanliness. They were cleaner than most settlers.

England’s Queen Victoria? 

She wasn’t a settler. But, she once boasted of taking two baths — in her entire lifetime.

No thanks, Vicky. Tonight? I’m not in the mood to snuggle…

Indians bathed or at least splashed between two and five times daily. They took steam baths in sweat houses. They’d hop back and forth over the smoke of a dying campfire to rid themselves of creatures, bug-sized to microscopic.

Indians would disappear into the privacy of the woods, dig a hole in the ground with heel, knife or soup spoon, perform their business and then cover it up. 

You know.

Like Kiwanis?

Indians seemed to know that bacteria can live up to 6 inches deep in the soil, but not deeper. One with Nature and all that.

Some tribal women, and, again, couldn’t swear that our SCV Tataviams did this, would venture out in small groups. One would “powder her nose” while her girlfriends stood around, shielding her from prying eyes by holding up blankets or shrubbery as a screen.

I’m guessing that’s why today, when dining out (remember that?) women visit the ladies’ room in packs.


THAT’S what your wife or girlfriend is doing in the restaurant bathroom. She’s relieving herself while her girlfriends are holding up blankets.

Seriously though, both “white” settlers and coyotes (no kidding!) would sometimes leave their — ahem — presents right in the middle of a darn trail.

Just like they do today in San Francisco.

Another thing about the pre-Toilet Paper Days? Don’t forget that even our own Tataviam frequently moved their villages, both to build new lean-tos and get away from any buried communal Porta-Pottie.

Strange days, these are.

Besides Toilet Paper, panic is a new currency. Again, a death toll of 1 is not acceptable. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control, every year, about 1,000 people die from autoerotic asphyxiation.

About the same number perish from lawnmower accidents.

MOTORIZED lawnmower accidents.

About 1,100 perish from skateboard or roller skate accidents in America yearly. Nearly 1,500 make their transition after falling out of trees. This one I can’t believe: nearly 10,000 die from accidents involving falling out of bed.

Which is why, in all my marriages, I insisted on taking the bottom bunk.

Some 2,200 Americans die from constipation.


I can’t recall quarantining Stevenson Ranch because some bloated chap forgot to drink their salsa.

Speaking of constipation, my gal pal had a final question about our SCV Indian ancestors and their bathroom habits.

She asked me how a Tataviam, living today, would cleanse themselves after a robust dismissal. Our ancient residents were pretty much nudists. I’m guessing they’d just hop on top of a roof of an SUV as it’s about to roll into a car wash, lie face down and enjoy a high-horsepower bidet.

Wax coating, of course, being extra.

John Boston is a local writer and a proud and armed owner of 12 rolls of Toilet Paper, which, in these trying days, is always capitalized…

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