Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Sound of One Hand Washing

Few, if anyone, are indifferent toward their public restroom experiences. Most of us have strong opinions regarding the method in which we publicly relieve our bladders, or at least regarding those who relieve their bladders in close proximity to us. The most commonly expected courtesy, for example, is to preserve as much spatial distance between two urinating persons as possible—never, never, never use the urinal or stall closest to another restroom patron unless extenuating circumstances require you to do so.

Beyond the realm of etiquette, restroom preferences still exist. You may opt for a hot air dryer, or you may prefer the quick-and-easy paper towel dispenser when it comes to drying your hands. Still others may choose the communal towel roll, a seemingly endless piece of cloth on which everyone wipes their dampened digits (though why you’d seek this option is beyond me). I personally opt for the environmentally-ignorant paper towels, and one perk of my new old job is the restroom’s motion-detector paper towel dispensers. They’re not only convenient and sanitary, they’re fun, utilizing technology reminiscent of the Starship Enterprise.

But be careful what you wish for. The new location of my new old job has brought such improvements to the restroom department that relieving myself is no longer a mindless activity. The luxurious state of these comparatively contemporary restrooms has played upon my obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Each of the three interconnected sink basins has its own soap dispenser, and each dispenser is filled with a different kind of soap. They’re all the same brand, I’m sure, and they’re all foam soap, but they are different colors and different smells. Luckily, I didn’t discover this until recently. Now I find myself alternating between the different scents with each lavatory visit. The peach-colored concoction, located at the sink basin I had consistently used until last week, turns out to be my least favorite, but I can’t decide if I prefer the rose-colored soap on the far end of the restroom or the blue raspberry-colored lather located smack in the middle. Multiple restroom visits per day have yet to yield a definitive answer.

And despite the advancements, the restrooms do feature one major flaw. The sinks are operated by those push-button faucets rather than by handles, knobs, or motion sensors. You’ve seen this kind of sink before, no doubt; it’s the kind where you’re given about five seconds worth of running water every time you press down, forcing you to either hold the button down with one hand while attempting to wash the other solo, or to press the button again and again with soapy hands, making their eventual cleanliness highly questionable. It’s an experience rather akin to the behaviorism-experiment videos you’re shown in high school psychology classes. Tap, tap, tap on the button, little mouse—you’ll get your reward.

Philosophically speaking, I can’t figure out the rationale that would lead to the selection of this type of plumbing. Does it avoid excessive use of water by controlling the amount of H20 dispensed in any given use? Perhaps that is the goal, but it seems to have the opposite effect, for all the reasons stated above. Rather than turning on the faucet, using precisely the amount of water I need, and immediately shutting it off, I am forced to hit the button repeatedly until the flow-time exceeds that which is actually necessary for proper washing. There’s no way to time it exactly, so one must choose excess. And, more than once, I have seen a faucet become stuck and remain flowing for significant amounts of time, with whoever was using it long since having departed the room. Had those responsible for designing the bathrooms done a poll, would they really have found anyone who prefers this type of fixture? I’m doubtful, and even more so that a majority would have chosen the contraption. C’mon, people! Get with the flow!


  1. Ben, Ben, Ben.........what do you find to blog about?????

  2. I find that if you double tap those types of water dispensers in the beginning of the wash it lasts just the right amount of time. I wonder if my restroom has more than one kind of soap! I don't think so, but that hardly seems fail. I'll let you know.