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Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I'd like to talk to you about a very unpredictable creature, the automatic public restroom. I think many of us thought it was cool when we first heard of toilets that flushed by themselves. These were soon followed by a stream of inventions designed to make the whole restroom visit easier. Suddenly we had automatic faucets and soap dispensers, self-starting hand dryers, and paper towel dispensers. So why is it that these time savers don't seem to save us any time?

We all know, but seldom talk about it. First and foremost, the auto-flush toilets seem to be possessed. Let me tell you, nothing wakes a person up like an icy-cold bidet. Unless it is two or three ice-water bidets. Fess up, you know it's happened to you too. After spending five minutes trying to dry off (the non-automatic toilet paper dispenser is rigged to stop after you have unrolled three sheets of tissue), you arise refreshed and wait for the commode to flush. And wait. And wait. You start waving your hand in front of the sensor to no avail, and end up using the backup button. Oh, well, you were going to wash your hands anyway.

You walk up to the sink which has a sanitary combo of faucet and soap dispenser that are made without any handles or levers. This is done so that not only do you not have to touch anything, you also don't have to decide what water temperature or amount of soap you'd prefer. As you approach the sink, the soap dispenser buzzes and spits soap into the sink. However, when you get closer to the sink and put your hand in front of the dispenser, nothing happens. This begins a ritual which involves walking up and down the row of sinks and waving your hands in front of the soap dispensers. Ah, sink number three finally gives you a dollop of foamy soap. You rub your hands together and put them under the faucet. Mm-hmm. No water. The dance of the sinks begins again as you try to find the one faucet that can tell you are there.

Someone else comes into the restroom. You advise them, since you respect the bonds of sisterhood, not to use stall number two, and that the soap is in sink number three but the water is in sink number one. Little do you know that these evil pieces of plumbing have reset their circuits and changed everything for the next user. You walk over to the inconveniently-located towel dispenser, wave your hand once, and voila! It springs to life, giving you a piece of paper towel that is almost large enough to dry the hands of a toddler. You begin waving like you are greeting someone you haven't seem in years, and finally get your hands dry.

You leave the restroom exhausted, to find that your husband is waiting impatiently. "What took so long? I thought I was going to have to find someone to go in and see if you were still alive!" You just give him "the stare" and remind yourself that violence is never the answer. And with any luck, it might just happen to him the next time.

p.s. For any of you who are fans of Prince's 80's-era music, this title's for you!