2002-09-26 / Arts & Entertainment

C’est La Vie

©2002 King
by Don Flood

Features Synd., Inc.

Mr. Whipple,

How Soon We Forget

A recent study showed that many of our high-school seniors lack a basic knowledge of American history.

Shockingly, many students graduate without knowing it was Ben Franklin who invented the electric guitar or that the first song he played on it was "Stairway to Heaven."

This knowledge deficiency was brought home to me when a young person asked who Mr. Whipple was.

Mr. Whipple! Defender of the Toilet Paper! One of the most famous men on America!

As the ancient Romans said, whenever someone was dumb enough to lend them their ears, "Sic transit gloria," a Latin phrase meaning, literally, "Send the bus to get Gloria."

(Why the ancient Romans would want to send a bus — which didn’t exist yet — to pick up Gloria — who apparently stayed up too late and overslept, thereby missing the bus — remains a subject of heated debate among scholars.)

I was dumbfounded, but will do my best to instruct my young readers regarding the place Mr. Whipple holds in our history.

It’s hard to imagine now, but a generation ago, grocery stores were a lawless no man’s land — literally, men didn’t go shopping — where crazed women roamed the aisles, searching for "squeezably soft" packages of Charmin toilet paper.

In Whipple World, squeezing the Charmin was strictly forbidden. It was up to Mr. Whipple to tame this Wild West and bring peace and order to the paper goods aisle.

Sadly though, Mr. Whipple possessed a dark secret.

While it was his job to prevent others from squeezing the Charmin, Mr. Whipple was not above temptation himself.

In the first act of the commercials, two or three women would be in the local food store, sneakily squeezing the forbidden Charmin.

But not sneakily enough to escape Mr. Whipple’s keen eye.

Policing the store alone and without the aid of modern electronic surveillance systems, Mr. Whipple nevertheless proved himself a match for these outlaw shoppers.

As the second act unfolded, Mr. Whipple would confront and firmly reprimand the offending shoppers.

But this, unfortunately, would be the beginning of the end, because in so doing Mr. Whipple always made the mistake of confiscating the Charmin with his own hands.

By then it was too late. He was already squeezing the Charmin himself!

Worse, he continued squeezing the Charmin at the same time he was lecturing others not to!

Oh, the irony!

Naturally, the shoppers were only too quick to call this to Mr. Whipple’s attention.

In the final act, Mr. Whipple, a sadder and nearly defeated man, would sheepishly return the Charmin to the shelves, where it would remain until the next sociopathic squeezer came down the aisle.

But the question remains, was Mr. Whipple a bad man, a hypocrite who too easily succumbed to the weakness he detested in others?

Or was he basically a good man who — in a world where many squeezed the Charmin without a trace of remorse — held himself to a higher standard?

Unless you want Mr. Whipple to be forgotten, you should discuss these questions with your children.

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