Pattern recognition

It happened while searching for something under the bathroom sink. I keep a box there with the various odds and ends that one needs or might need – hair dryer (always on top for daily use), cotton balls, various hair products. When something went astray, I was forced to pull the box out and root around near the bottom. And that’s where I saw it.

Actually, what I first saw was all of “it”. Approximately two dozen razor replacements, dozens of packets of eye glass cleaner, no fewer than three combs, two antiperspirants and two tubes of toothpaste. I looked deeper into the cupboard and saw more of the same – various never-opened or partly-used bottles of hair products, four or five bottles of bathroom cleaning products, and of course four rolls of toilet paper.

What I saw next was “it” – the pattern. Learned or inherited, I’ve recognized my parents’ similar but different quasi-obsessions with bathroom products. I’m sure Freud has a name for this, but it doesn’t really matter. Like my parents, I must feel compelled at a semi-conscious level to keep my bathroom “stocked up”.

My mom’s collections always seemed very practical to me – nothing odd about them at all. Rule number one – always have plenty of toilet paper, you can never have too much. A few years ago, when she was getting ready for a grand RV trip through the backroads of America, she told me breathlessly one day about finding a sale on biodegradable toilet paper (required for RV-ers) and how she stocked up. I had visions of her motor home now equipped with a special rack to hold all this bounty, or perhaps a small trailer for just these essential items. I too have learned to hoard this item, always ensuring a sufficient supply, and recognizing that “only four rolls left” is like threat level Orange and might require a special shopping trip.

My mom’s bathroom also always has a large supply of facecloths, in many colours, all rolled up and stacked prettily on a handy shelf. My bathroom now contains a similarly stocked shelf, this despite the fact that I rarely if ever use a facecloth.

My Pop had similar bathroom obsessions. When my sister and I cleared out his last apartment in Vancouver, we chuckled over the vast collections – soap, razor blades, scissors and tweezers, and reading glasses. Oddly, I don’t remember a single spare roll of toilet paper. His collections were not strictly bathroom related, but definitely in the personal hygiene department.

And then last week my sister confessed that she’d recognized this tendency in herself when she had occasion to count her collection of tweezers and nail clippers. Six pairs of each. Pattern recognized.

I suppose there are worse habits to learn or inherit. And there’s nothing so wrong with being prepared to survive out a (really long) storm, at least at the level of toilet paper and toothpaste. And you never know what McGyver-ish things you might need multiple pairs of tweezers for.

Best of all, such collections are maintained in the bathroom, away from view of most folks who might raise an eyebrow at such an accumulation of hair conditioner. Those folks that do snoop enough to see my secrets under the bathroom sink surely couldn’t confess that they have learned or inherited nosiness, now can they?

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