Think about The Thinker

Neurologists estimate a person is aware of 2,000 separate bits of information per minute.

Neurologists estimate a person is aware of 2,000 separate bits of information per minute.

If that sounds like a shocking amount, hang on to your socks.

The human brain actually is presented with 600 billion bits of information per second from which it selects 400 billion items per minute as being note worthy and from that it chooses only 2000 bits to highlight for our attention.

This could explain lost keys, forgotten passwords and failure to remember appointments.

In fact, how we manage to remember anything at all given the influx of information on our brain circuitry blows my mind…so to speak.

The cool thing is every brain decides what is important depending on the person it belongs to.

My brain might alert me to a plant sale, while yours might pull your attention to a sign advertising an aerobic class.

Sometimes I am pleased with what my brain chooses; great books, awareness of nature and worthy causes etc. I like to think I am a compassionate and deep thinker.

Alas, liking an idea does not make it so.

The other day I was putting away groceries when my brain suddenly presented me with an image of colored toilet paper.

I wasn’t even putting away toilet paper nor was I near the bathroom. I was bent down putting apples in the crisper when just like that…colored toilet paper was one of the 2000 bits my brain decided I would be interested in.

If I was the deep thinker I pretend to be, I would have discarded the image immediately.

Instead I stood up and exclaimed to the apples, “Whatever happened to colored toilet paper?” Apparently the brain knows me better than I know myself.

Do you remember colored toilet paper?

It used to come in shades of lavender, blue, pink, green and yellow. Personally, I don’t ever recall synchronizing toilet tissue with my own bathroom decor.

It wasn’t that I was against it; I just never had enough Martha in me to be that coordinated.

A little research (yeah, I even spent time researching the disappearance of colored toilet paper) told me that Scott was the last purveyor of pastel paper and discontinued the product line in December of 2009 due to a wan in consumer demand.

A wan that came in part from public health concerns over using dyed paper on our nether regions.

That caused another bit to be plucked from my brain stream. Whatever happed to unbleached paper products?

You know…the brown stuff that was supposed to be better for us and the environment.

I suddenly remembered a period of buying brown paper towel, toilet paper and coffee filters but that doesn’t seem to be an option anymore; at least not where I shop. Very puzzling.

And hey, while we’re at it, what happened to the select-a-size paper towels?

Those only came out a couple years ago and they were great.

Instead of using a full sheet, extra perforations allowed you to opt for half a sheet instead.

I used way less paper towel when…oh, that would explain it.

Of course, the best thing we could do for the environment is give up paper towel altogether and use old t-shirts and socks instead.

As for toilet paper it might interest you to know that a patent for rolled toilet paper as we know it today wasn’t even taken out until 1883 and it would be several decades after that before it became common place.

In our northern neck of what was once dubbed the “Final Canadian Frontier” I am the first generation in my family to have grown up without a stack of catalogues in the outhouse.


Now there’s your original colorful toilet paper.

I heard about a person who in a fit of passion for the environment decided if it was good enough for her ancestors it was good enough for her and turned to newspapers and catalogues in the bathroom for purposes other than reading.

What she didn’t understand was our ancestors didn’t have indoor plumbing. Dropping pieces of newspaper into a hole in the ground rarely clogs things up.

Flushing pieces of newspaper…well, that’s a different animal altogether. There are not many alternatives for toilet paper. Even less now that colored toilet paper is gone from the shelves.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from Northern BC. You can catch up on past columns by visiting

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