too much typing—since 2003



Random complaint mode on:

What is it with public restrooms whose management insists on setting the faucets so that they automatically turn off after, like, half a second unless you hold them on? What's the point of that? Do these people have three hands, so they can wash their hands while also holding the water on? So we have to resort to alternating very wet, soapy hands under the water and holding the faucet on, thereby creating a much messier sink. And if the motivation is to save water, this method's inefficiency probably ends up using more water.

Or perhaps they bear a grudge against the health department, and want to discourage people from washing their hands?

On the other hand, while I appreciate that encouraging folks to wash their hands is sound public health, it seems a bit odd that public restrooms have been sprouting instructions on how to wash. There are people out there who don't know how to wash their own hands?

Some of the instructions are pretty amusing though. For example, a Starbucks* near campus has a restroom with hand-washing instructions that terminate not with the usual "dry" step, but with the added proviso that hands should be dried before turning off the faucet, and that we should "Use towel to turn off faucet." Okay, yes: when you turn on the faucet, your hands are touching it again after you've cleaned your hand runs the risk of getting it "dirty" again...but c'mon, who wrote this, Howard Hughes? "Encase entire body in latex. Do not leave the house."

* It's connected to a local bookstore, and the two businesses share restrooms. So don't worry: I'm not contributing to The Beast.


Anonymous said...

Listen up, 'cause I'm only going to post this once. I quite agree about the rapid-shutoff faucets and the handwashing instructions. However, I learned something new from reading those instructions. I'd never known that one must wash one's hands for at least 20 seconds. Time it sometime; isn't that a little excessive?

Now, in case anyone thinks me a slob, let me point out that I wash my hands at least a dozen times a day at about 10-12 seconds per time, and that I totally agree with the bit about using a paper towel to turn off the faucet in a public restroom. Without getting too delicate, I need to point this out: what touches those faucets? Hands, of strangers, that have just gotten finished aiming or wiping. Ick. As much as I love trees, for this reason I am opposed to restrooms that offer only the blow-dryer or the vintage cloth-towel loop for drying.

And regarding silly instructions and those blow-dryers: I still enjoy the graffiti I once read scrawled under "1. Push button 2. Rub hands together":

3. Dry hands on pants.

-- anonymously and cleanly, Janet

2fs said...

Well, yes, but...see, I think we're entirely too fastidious, generally. And ultimately, it puts us at risk. There's some evidence suggesting that children who aren't adequately exposed to dirt (not that that would be a problem on your end) fail to develop robust immune systems, for instance. I don't think most germs are that hardy, either. And anyway: shouldn't you use the paper towel to turn the water *on* then, as well? And to open and close the door. Best just to wear gloves at all times, it seems. That's what I mean: all activities carry a certain amount of risk, and life is unlivable if we fret over every last one of them.

FWIW, I think the cloth towel roll is the best alternative: no paper waste, less frequent restocking, reusable after laundering, and - they actually dry your hands. Working in academia, where restrooms are used by large numbers of people in ten-minute windows, I can tell you that hand dryers just don't do it: they create a line waiting for the users' hands to get dry already. A lot of people just give up and figure wiping one's hands on trousers is adequate.

Anonymous said...

all activities carry a certain amount of risk, and life is unlivable if we fret over every last one of themOh c'mon now, you can't be extrapolating that I fret over every last activity. I only fret over driving, crossing the street, inadvertently angering people, and turning public faucets off with my bare hands. Ya don't need to turn the faucet on behind the shield of a paper towel, because you're about to wash your hands for 20 seconds and rid them of the yuck of quotidian functions.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the cloth-towel loop (I love this story), a Mexican restaurant that my friends and I used to frequent had one of those in the restroom. There was a sign on it that read (wait for it...)

Caution: Do not put head in towel loopI am not making this up. My friends and I would have endless drunken fun thinking up scenarios of people trying to off themselves using public restroom equipment.

--Anonymous Flasshe

2fs said...

Right - I forgot to mention, about the cloth towel-roll format, the sign such units typically feature, reading "Warning: Intentional misuse may be harmful or fatal."

I wonder who it is somewhere that keeps track of cloth hand-drying roll fatalities. First you're just goofing around, sticking your head in the loop - and then blammo! the thing turns on you and squeezes your neck like a boa constrictor. Or a sneaky little Piso Mojado sign sneaks up, slops liquid on the floor, you slip and - boom! your spine snaps in two like a dry twig.

What is it about public restrooms that breeds paranoia?