New collectors are cleaning up

Watson Lake is to have vigilantes! Rumours are flying as thick and fast as mosquitoes. There was a theft of some sort and the victim and some of his cronies, dissatisfied with the response of the RCMP, have sworn vengeance on the perpetrators.

Dear Uma:

Watson Lake is to have vigilantes! Rumours are flying as thick and fast as mosquitoes.

There was a theft of some sort and the victim and some of his cronies, dissatisfied with the response of the RCMP, have sworn vengeance on the perpetrators.

The latter are suspected to be teenage boys who are known (or heavily suspected) in the community to be the ones who do such things. The men have put out the word that if there are any more B&Bs, or thefts from or of vehicles, they will be taking action themselves. Alas, Watson Lake seems to be a place of limited responses; as someone once far from here once said “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

I cannot endorse a response of this nature but I do understand the frustration of people who suffer at the hands of a seemingly untouchable group—underage boys. I suppose it is every bit as frustrating for the RCMP who are bound by the laws that render these kids pretty much home free when it comes to petty crimes.

Pete has installed a sophisticated system of cameras and alarms on and around the trailer. I don’t know what makes him think our humble home is a lure to vandals and thieves, but he is convinced the expense is necessary. The area thoroughly covers not only our property but some of that of neighbours; no one will be able to enter our place or one on either side of us without being recorded. The backyard is also covered, but only our yard. So far the film has revealed loose dogs defecating in the driveways, foxes and something that looks like a grouse.

It’s for my protection, too, he told me when I objected to the expense as well as the necessity of me having to learn some small technical things regarding the system, it is not just for guarding our stuff.

I don’t see that it guards me or our stuff; it merely records anyone who damages or steals anything. Although the value of having such a record is undeniable when it comes to thievery, it’s useless when it comes to actually safeguarding anything or anyone.

If our place is invaded and I am beaten or molested, the event will be recorded in living colour and perfect sound—how does that protect me? I asked him.

And if he is so all-fired worried about my safety, why doesn’t he get me a pistol, I want to know. At this suggestion Pete went alarmingly pale and in an effort to divert me, said he would take me to “Sally’s” for lunch, a feint I can be counted on to fall for, and the subject of a gun was dropped never to resurface.

Theo and Pete called this morning from Kluane Park where they have been hiking. It was nice to hear their voices and to know they are having a wonderful time together. Theo was telling me how Pete had forgotten to take toilet paper on one of their hikes. The subsequent lesson in wilderness ‘making do’ led Theo to remark he would be sending some moss to Rinker for his collection.

Theo is a veritable gold mine of esoteric knowledge. First it was ferret legging and now it’s Harry L. Rinker.

In case you don’t know, Harry is a famous collector—of everything. He has TV and radio shows and puts out a newsletter as well as lecturing and writing weekly columns all over the place.

Why am I, the least stuff-oriented person you’ll ever know, interested?

Among the man’s innumerable collections is one of toilet paper!

I was skeptical, but a quick search revealed it was indeed so.

He began his collection in the ‘80s, after a casual conversation among travellers regarding the often extreme differences in the toilet paper on offer in various countries.

For those beginning the hobby, Rinker recommends getting the word out to friends and acquaintances who are travelling; bringing home samples is not a big deal as it is lightweight, generally free, and not likely to cause any undue interest from customs officials.

As the hobby could be said to be in its infancy, it is a good time to begin a collection, thinking of museums and posterity and not just washrooms and posteriors.

There are rules to collecting toilet paper. For instance, one needs four to six sheets in order to claim having a valid sample. Samples must be in mint condition and a record of time and place of acquisition is important.

Some collectors, including Rinker, have begun to collect entire rolls and if there is a wrapper, that too becomes part of the set. He warns that adding in this way can mean a collection that once occupied a shirt box can end up requiring several large boxes.

Among Rinker’s enviable collection is some light-grey textured paper from the German railroad: each sheet is stamped “Deutsche Bundesbahn.” Imagine a railroad administration so concerned about a roll of toilet paper that they find it necessary to spend money stamping their name on every sheet. It sounds remarkably similar to some YTG spending.

He also has bragging rights on some rare British toilet paper that has a surface texture resembling wax paper, and another German contribution that comes in an aluminum foil package that contains paper moistened and perfumed to act and smell like a wash-and-dry wipe.

There are even some samples that are translucent, a most disturbing notion to my mind. What manner of mind thought see-through toilet paper would be a good thing? Perhaps, though, it would ensure more attention to hand washing, which we are told would mean less flu epidemics and fewer common colds as well as lessening the chances of an epidemic of swine flu.

Rinker is not alone in being able to claim some small fame for his collection; there is a woman collector on the lecture circuit who talks about her wide assortment of toilet paper. Like most lecturers, she charges a fee for her presentations and does not seem to lack bookings. In fact, she appears to be cleaning up.

It all leads one to believe there may be some real value in beginning a toilet paper collection. Rinker claims it is only a matter of time before such efforts will be rewarded by the ultimate stamp of legitimacy—a museum collection.

I am seeing some possibilities here: why not a toilet paper for each province? The Yukon could lead the way with a picture of their premier stamped on each sheet. What better way to evidence their respect and admiration for their leader than to be daily and often reminded of his presence and power in their lives?

Who knows what other brilliant concepts may follow to encourage collectors as the other territories and the provinces follow suit with their own motifs. Seal hunters on the Newfoundland paper, and homeless people overlaid with the Olympic symbol for BC’s wipes.

Transparent paper for Ottawa? An oily quality for Alberta?

Yes, perhaps I do have too much time on my hands, but that is about to change; I bought a sewing machine at a garage sale that came with a bundle of patterns labelled “Jiffy.” I plan on beginning cautiously, with something very simple.

Maybe the new vigilantes would like capes with matching hoods.




Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.

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