Sunday, July 05, 2009

Hands Free

The world is a reasonably decent place, all things considered (at least if you don’t consider the political situation in many parts of the world and the economic situation in most) but it was also a reasonably decent place in 1990 before the latest scourge of up-to-date technology arrived and, believe it or not, I’m not talking about cell phones; I’m referring to hands-free bathroom appliances, notably those fucking faucets and paper towel dispensers that are so annoying that they’ve become a trope used in television advertising, but even so, it bears reapeating that here’s another example of something somebody invented that was supposed to make our lives better but if you really think about it, and even more, experience it, it’s not better at all.

I mean, do I really need to have some electric eye turn my water on for me when I come to wash my hands? I don’t mind, I’ll admit, having the toilet flush automatically after I do my business, but this thing where I have to waive my hands under some sensor that I can never exactly figure out where it is, bugs me; and then, after I finally get my hands wet, having to waive them again in front of some other sensor to make the paper towels come out is just too much.

I think these systems are probably why diseases like swine flu are more likely to spread—it’s so goddamn annoying to wash your hands, you just give up—and plus, it’s probably a conspiracy on the part of manufacturers to save money at our expense, since—if you’re like me—you simply despair of getting water or paper and just give up.

I know that this is another example of a development that marks me as an old person, but here’s an instance of that I don’t mind; if being old means you know how to wash and dry your hands without help, then that’s me.


Anonymous Scott said...

Funny you write this Dave. I feel compelled to share my essay on this very topic with you.

Sunday, January 11, 2009 at 2:11am |

You know what fucks me up?
Automatic bathroom stuff.

Automatic Toilets. Automatic Urinals. Automatic Sinks. Automatic Soap Dispensers. Automatic Paper Towel Feeders. And at one place, an automatic TP Dispenser.

By themselves they're slightly annoying, but survivable. Where it fucks me up is when we start drinking and bar hopping, and every bathroom is different. Each one has it’s own combination of helpful automatic devices. Some have automatic sinks. Some don’t. Some have automatic toilets. Some don’t. After a few drinks I find myself having to put a lot of thought and effort into what should be a pretty basic procedure - or I’ll end up standing there in a drunken wobbly, with my hands under a faucet that will never turn on. Or pawing for a paper towel dispenser handle that doesn't exist. Or it’s one of those obnoxious hot air things, but even that is up for grabs. Do you get the motion sensor, or the satisfying wackamole button? I don’t get to dry my hands with a fucking towel, at least I can punch the shit out of that stupid button. But no. We have to think about even that. Insult to injury I tell you. But my personal favorite would have to be the automatic toilet that starts (and then keeps) flushing when I’m getting a blowjob, or doing lines of coke - or trying to pass out on it. Seriously distracting. I don’t know the bartender or even the name of this girl I’m hitting on, but I’ve got the bathroom fixtures of a dozen bars up and down 2nd avenue memorized (or at least mostly memorized). It’s embarrassing.

This summer we bicycled out to the peninsula to go camping and stopped in Port Gamble. Upon leaving the stall, some guy yelled at me for leaving a floater in the toilet. And after I spent a good 20 seconds waving my hands around the faucet like some shaman doing a fucking voodoo incantation trying to induce the sink to produce water, I finally realized there were knobs. But the paper towel dispenser handle was right where I expected it to be and I thought to myself - yep, we must be in the country alright.

I’d like to remind the Automatic Bathroom Appliance Committee that all this started with squatting under a bush. Now I have robots squirting water up my butt and offering me paper towels in random but measured quantities in establishments around the world, and I have to wonder: has technology really made life better for us? If so, would a little bathroom standardization be too much to ask? On behalf of the drunkards and bafoons everywhere. Please. Do it for the kids.

5:13 PM  

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