Can we just stop for a minute and talk about the state of automation in public restrooms in America these days?

I mean seriously, can we be honest and talk about what is happening in our society?

I want to know why every single bathroom I enter anymore has different automation? There is no “uniform code” to this room that serves, well basically, a basic function. All consistency has been tossed in the name of innovation. Every toilet, soap dispenser, sink and hand dryer is different.  

Not only is consistency an issue, but also I’m questioning the level of cleanliness in our high-tech johns these days. Sure, all the flushing and flowing sounds (sinks, I’m talking about sinks here) appear so perfect and orderly when you walk into these rooms but are these rooms any cleaner for all the shiny and sleek automated chrome? All that glitters is not gold people.  

I regularly find the whole experience of using a public facility utterly absurd and sometimes even confusing. Yes! Confusing! I’m not afraid to admit it! My issues with high-tech bathrooms has been growing for a while now, so please hang with me as I work through my list of complaints: 

1)   TOILETS: Sometimes the toilet flushes on its own, and sometimes you are left wondering which little button on the side accomplishes that task? Where did the handles go?  I simply must ask: if you are getting rid of handles because they are unsanitary, why in the world did we move towards small, little, hidden buttons?

a) Self-flushing toilets can be a hazard when they flush in the middle of the personal process! Can I get a witness here?   

b) The aggressive nature of the auto-flushing process often showers down water, albeit clean water, all over the seat. (Note – this ties into my comments on hand dryers).

i) I’ve yet to meet a toddler that will sit on one of these self-flushing seats out of fear for their very lives! 

c) How about all the water wasted by over-sensitive-self-flushers that run in empty stalls simply because they are on a timer or because a stall door activates the mechanism?

d) What about those seats with the plastic liners that rotate before you sit down, providing a sanitary experience, but on which there is no upper toilet seat making them incredibly uncomfortable? 

2) SOAP DISPENSERS: Sometimes you push up on soap dispensers, sometimes you pump down, sometimes you push inward, and sometimes you wait for the device to squirt.  I rarely get these suckers right

a) No matter which device is installed, these items are always out of reach for children. Always.  

b) I also want to know who sets the timing on these squirters? Am I am the only one who ends up with more soap on the ground or in the sink because I get irritated with waiting and pull my hand away (too late? too soon? – I’m unclear which applies). Adding insult to injury, there’s no way to clean up this type of mess because paper towels are gone in most restrooms these days (again, I point you to the section on hand dryers)

c) Is it too much to ask that I want to determine my quantity of soap? Who measures out that tiny pump of liquid that most of these dispensers release? Making matters worse, these auto-dispensers are also on a timer! By the time I realize I don’t have enough soap (because the pea-size amount we are initially given basically produces zero suds [even though the photos on the mirrors over the sinks indicate we should be washing with tons of suds]), I have to wait for the soap dispenser to re-time itself and deliver another portion and by then the water has turned back off! This is a cycle of insanity!   

i) Sub-sub-point on the cycle of insanity – can you picture this process times multiple children? I can. I’ve been there. Not to mention little ones who lay their bodies over wet sinks to reach the high-tech-looking-but-totally-stupid automated soap dispenser. (See more on this under sinks and hand dryers)

3) SINKS: Sometimes sinks turn on by themselves, and sometimes they don’t. No matter which type you encounter, as I’ve previously pointed out, chances are they will always be a cesspool of standing water. 

a) If the sink does have a sensor, you will be lucky to find that one little sweet spot that actually initiates water flow and stay in that zone long enough to accomplish the hand washing. 

b) If the sink does not have a sensor, you will likely stand at the faucet waiving your hands around for a while waiting for the sink to start running before you realize it’s the “old fashion kind” you have to turn on yourself. You will also likely walk away from this type of sink and leave the water running. (See more on this under the combination of automation section).

c) I cannot express the frustration that I experience when I do finally manage to get soap on my hands only TO NOT BE ABLE TO ACTIVATE THE WATER TO RINSE OFF THE SOAP. Am I the only one to visit an establishment where none of the high-tech faucets dispense water because their low-tech batteries are dead? TALK TO ME PEOPLE! ! (YES! I AM SHOUTING!)  

i) As pointed out in 2.c.i. – in almost every occasion that I visit a public bathroom, the sinks are covered in water. It is so gross. I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing myself more harm than good by attempting to wash my hands in these environments! Do you know what I’m saying? Do I want to deal with my germs or the combined germs of every single person who’s visited the bathroom on any given day? It’s the hygienic form of Russian roulette, I say.  

4) HAND DRYERS: It’s probably on this point I’m going to draw some controversy, but I’m willing to risk it. I miss paper towels in bathrooms so much! I want to be able to wipe down the sink, clean up spills, use the towel to open the door handle to leave the room, just to name a few uses. Let’s make a deal, shall we? Whenever possible, let’s do both. I’ll happily use the superpower automated dryer to save trees, reduce waste, and “prevent disease”. But, can I please have a few towels to wipe down the water on the sink. Pretty please?

a) You’ve been reading this blog long enough by now to know nothing is simple. Even if we are lucky enough to get paper towels in a bathroom, it’s not always easy or efficient. These devices have the same complications as most sinks these days. Some you wave your hand in front of, some under, some you crank, and others you pull to dispense a towel (all of which release a towel of so many varying sizes, some of which are uselessly small, but frankly I think I’ve made enough points in this blog post).   

b) The automated dryers were cool in the beginning. I was a fan of punching that silver nob and, overall, efficiently completing the task of getting my hands dry. But, some of the ones I’ve found recently practically hurt in their aggressive drying manner. It’s somewhat terrorizing to stick your hands down into that style of dryer where you can literally see your skin being wrung dry. 

5) COMBINATION OF ANY OF THE ABOVE MENTIONED AUTOMATION: What to know what drives me nuts more than anything I’ve listed above? It’s those bathrooms that are a combination of technology and good ole’ fashioned plumbing!  

a) Who decides to have the combination of an automated toilet, pump soap, an old fashion sink, and a high-powered-blow-your-hands-off dryer? Or a toilet you have to flush, squirting soap, the water you assume will auto disperse like the soap, but indeed you have to turn the handle yourself, followed up by a paper towel unit that is jammed and no air dryers.   

PSYC! Now they are just messing with our heads! Forget norms, now we are just living in plain ole confusion. 

Please don’t get me wrong. I AM VERY GRATEFUL FOR PUBLIC RESTROOMS. But, I can’t help but wonder, if we are allowing technology to make something very simple too hard? I’m not calling for government standards or anything here, but for crying-out-loud, I want to know what engineers and developers are thinking? I realize that somebody decided to time water dispersion to save resources, but has anyone ever really examined how many times I activate the same faucet in one hand washing? 

Finally, while it’s on my mind, I’m happy to report that airplane lavatories have remained largely unchanged as of yet in the technological age. However, I would be remiss not to ask: why do airplane manufactures continue to produce lavatory doors that include giant warnings quoting federal statutes and warn against smoking WHILE AT THE SAME TIME include ashtrays in each and every door? Paradigm much? I’m so confused by this messaging. 

In summary, I’m asking: Are we overthinking toilets in western society? Or, is this just me? 

Ok, I’m done. (You’re welcome.)   

Next up on my list of social irritations to discuss: Apple’s headset adaptors, ever-changing charging systems, and those STUPID glass screens.