Posted by: jevcat | February 14, 2010

Lavatory Laments

Lavatory Laments

Five years ago, when I was lucky enough to fulfill a lifelong dream and visit the land from which about half my ancestors came, staying with a cousin who was working in Munich, one of the joys – though perhaps not the principal joy – was the opportunity to use non-computerized public restrooms. 

Modern public restrooms are theoretically smooth operations that use the latest computer technology to ensure that one’s visit is efficient, fast, and conserves water and energy.  My question:  have any of the designers actually used a public restroom?  And I’d be willing to bet none of them are women.

First and foremost:  the motion-sensitive, automatic-flush toilets.  You go into the stall, turn to close and lock the door, the toilet flushes.  Being a woman, you have a purse; you move to hang it on the hook provided, the toilet flushes.  You lift your skirt or – worse still – bend to pull down slacks, the toilet flushes.  You do what you came to do, reach for the toilet paper, the toilet flushes – this one is a particular treat, as you get the breeze from the rushing water and potential for splash-back.  You drop your skirt back or bend to pull up your slacks, the toilet flushes.  In winter, you get at least one additional flush out of removing your coat and hanging it up.  Will someone please explain to me how this saves water? 

Then you move to the sink to wash your hands.  If it is computerized, you must find the electric eye.  This can result in a process that resembles a cross between a dance and some obscure pagan purification ritual, as one waves one’s hands about in search of a the right spot.  Having found the electric eye, one must then keep one’s hands in its range long enough to effectively wash them.  In cases where water dispensal is timed, it rarely seems to be long enough for the 15-20 seconds epidemiologists recommend, much less long enough to remove soap.  And don’t get me started on automatic soap dispensers. 

Even when the sink is not automated, you have the challenge of figuring out how exactly this sleek modern appliance functions:  do you turn, push, pull or some combination of the above?  And why are the points of exit for the water in modern faucets so often high up, making it impossible to wash one’s hands without splashing water on oneself?  But at least one has some control over water temperature.  With a computerized sink of pre-measured amounts, if not many folks have used it recently, the water may resemble glacial melt water.  On the other hand, should you want to refill a water bottle, the water will probably be warm – providing, of course, that you can maneuver the bottle into a position the electric eye will recognize long enough to fill it. 

And I don’t know about men’s rooms – I rarely frequent them – but why are the hand dryers and paper towel dispensers always positioned so high on the wall that, for the average female, at least, it’s impossible to use them without water running from wrist to elbow?

Alright, I’ve vented.  I’ll go quietly now (and yes, I am aware of the pun).



  1. Aaaargh! Those automated flushes are the worst. It’s true. They greet you with a flush as soon as you open the door. Then the damned toilet keeps flushing at you every five seconds until you leave the staff (with one final flush goodbye). No, they don’t bloody well save water and they certainly don’t save anyone’s sanity!

  2. Ooops. I meant to write “leave the stall;” not “leave the staff.” I don’t bring a staff into the loo with me. I know how to use a toilet all by myself. So far…

  3. I like this. A lot.

    As a man who has, through the years, been told by women I’ve dated that I always have warm hands (one insisted it was always moist – you know her – but, as I came to realize, it was merely that my hand was warm and perhaps caused her hand to thus become moist), it amuses me that most heat-activated faucets seem to feel I’m not among the living.

    The toilets seem to think my ass is PARTICULARLY alive, but the faucets would beg to differ.

    Even if I DO know where the heat sensor is.

    Good work.

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