Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Toilet Paper, the German Army and surveillance cameras

In a recycling related post comes news that each German soldier appears to get though 10 rolls of toilet paper A DAY. After a close investigation this was later reduced to 8.8 sheets per soldier per day.

The question on the lips of people everywhere is "where did the other loo rolls go?"

More scarily, surveillance cameras in a bus depot in Germany have been set up to monitor toilet paper use. Next time you sit down to read the paper check for hidden cameras watching your every (bowel) movement.

Bogged Down in Paper [Times]

Governments can fumble a key treaty, cause havoc by yet again revising the nation's exam system, or run out of vital vaccines, and the furore will eventually subside. But when a scandal erupts over the cost of lavatories, there will be a price to pay.

Two decades ago, the Pentagon was pilloried for paying defence contractors $640 for a toilet seat cover. Now a German defence minister has been forced to placate the Green Party, which is upset that official figures (when you marry procurements to personnel) indicate that each German soldier is getting through 10 toilet rolls a day. A day. The minister ridicules such an extravagant calculation, insisting solemnly that the real usage is just 8.8 sheets per soldier per day.

Well, that's some relief. But what, then, is happening to these rolls? Is there a German Milo Minderbender, the commercially inventive mess officer in Catch-22, who is bartering surplus loo rolls for fancier commodities? And should that scheme go awry, will German soldiers be eating chocolate-covered loo paper, the way pilots at Milo's US army air base were fed chocolate- covered cotton when his plan to trade an entire year's Egyptian cotton harvest backfired?

But Germany's loo paper woes are multilayered. A fortnight ago a bus driver there took his employers to court after they had sacked him for filching a toilet roll from the bus depot lava-tory: he had been caught on surveillance cameras installed, partly, to monitor toilet paper usage. The morality of such monitoring apart, the cameras have caught a moment proving that a once mighty country has become a paper tiger.


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