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Toilet paper supply is no laughing matter (or is it?)

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Radio days

When you work in media (pictured here, Holly Kozelsky in 1989), you have to be careful about jokes people may misinterpret — especially if DJs respond to them over the air.

While I was preparing Friday’s Church News for publication, I had a crazy little daydream about putting somewhere on the church page for churches to pray for us to get a new reporter or two, and soon.

Like, it seems, most businesses these days, we’ve been short-staffed. A reporter would help both the newspaper and the personal lives of those of us who work so much these days that our families suffer.

It would be helpful, and sweet, to have area churches praying for us, but it didn’t seem quite professional to ask.

Then my thoughts went to my time in radio when the whole community was praying for the radio station – something which had gotten started from a thoroughly unprofessional matter.

I was talking on the air one weekday when the office manager came bustling down the hall with her latest delivery of purchases from the grocery store.

I had left the door to the on-air studio at the end of the hall near the bathroom open, and as I was giving the news report I could hear her shouting as bags rustled and her footsteps pounded:

“I don’t know what’s happening to all the TOILET paper around here. I just bought some last week. People must be stuffing their BRAS with it. I don’t see where else it all could be going. People must be stuffing their BRAS with it.”

I was offended, since most of the other DJs were men, except for the church ladies on Sunday.

When Ed the college boy came in to work for the night shift, I weighed out the fun of mimicking the office manager with the embarrassment of saying the word “bra” to him— and the fun won out.

Little did I expect what a creative mind could make of that situation.

When I came in for my Saturday afternoon shift, Randy, the morning DJ, was laughing a little but mostly furious.

“Lordy, I didn’t know about this, and I wasn’t prepared, so I had to put on an entire album side and lock the station to go down to the Stop & Save” he said.

“For what?” I asked.

“For the bathroom! The new Paper Products Policy!”

He pointed toward the bathroom. I walked in and looked.

On the wall was a chart titled “Wxxx Paper Products Policy.” Going down in columns were two fields, one for toilet paper and one for paper towels.

“Due to recent paper products shortages, Wxxx has instituted a new policy. For each shift worked, each employee will be allowed one (1) square of paper towel and 3 (three) squares of toilet paper.”

The squares on each roll of paper towels and toilet paper had been hand-numbered. I unrolled – the numbers continued.

Doing down the side of the chart were rows where people were supposed to write their names. In each box, they had to write the number of tissue and its use.

The chart already had a few entries filled out.

Friday, 3-7 p.m.: Holly: toilet paper squares #4-7. Reason: Bra.

Friday, 7-9 p.m.: Ed: toilet paper squares #8-10. Reason: #2. Paper towel: #1. Reason: Dry hands.

Saturday, 6-10 a.m.: Randy: [written across fields] “This is an unfair policy to learn about at the last minute. At least you could have told us to bring our own.”

I laughed uproariously and told Randy about the office manager’s rant about toilet paper while I was on the air, which probably the whole town heard over the radio. He laughed so hard he liked to had fell out. He left work laughing, and I started my shift laughing. It was Ed working next.

However, the others didn’t take it so easily.

Sunday’s scheduling was the Rev. Walden, who played gospel music and did a little preaching before heading out at 10 a.m. to drive to the church where she was the pastor. Then it was Randy, and then Sister Florene, who played Southern gospel records.

I was the second one in to work that Monday morning, so after I explained the hoax to the surprised morning DJ, Darren, I took down the chart and the remaining numbered sheets of paper products.

I happened to run into Sister Florene at the Farmer’s Alliance store later on Monday.

She rushed over to me: “LORD, what has done HAPPENED to Wxxx? They ain’t allowing toilet paper?”

Before I could get a word in edgewise, she went off on what an unfair policy it was, and how she prayed for the station, and for the station owner by name, throughout the day over the air, praying the station would survive and sell enough ads to go back to buying regular amounts of toilet paper for the staff. She prayed that any business owners listening would support the station better.

I explained to her that it all was a joke started by the college boy, who surely never would have expected anyone would take it seriously.

“A joke? A JOKE?” she burst out. “That was not funny. He is a little ole college boy. It’s easy for him. I’m a 50-year-old woman, and women have to use the bathroom, and I bring a half-gallon of tea to work every Sunday. That makes you have to go to the bathroom. A little ole boy like that don’t have no problems going to the bathroom.”

I again explained that he didn’t mean any harm, and probably had assumed everyone would see it as a joke.

Later, when I saw Rev. Walden, she also was furious about the whole thing. She told me that she, too, had prayed for the radio station, and for the station owner, and for advertisers, and for toilet paper, over the air, several times.

The station owner and station manager must not have been listening to the radio that weekend, or if they did they were discrete about the whole matter, because I never heard anything about the toilet paper incident from them.

That experience taught me two very important lessons.

First, not everyone is going to get a joke, and misunderstandings over something meant for fun can cause some real sore feelings.

Second, always, always keep the door to the DJ booth closed when you’re on the air.

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