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Bathroom Break

Matt Welch complains about bathroom technology:

Meanwhile, as the Paperless Office I've been hearing about for decades utterly fails to materialize in my pulp-cluttered writing room, technology has leapfrogged in the one area where it couldn't be less welcome: the Paperless Bathroom.

The men out there, especially, know what I'm talking about: scalding automatic hand-dryers that start and stop at random, sensory activated faucets that only dispense water once you've thrust both elbows in the sink, hopped on one foot and chanted "Bloody Mary" three times -- and not a single humble paper towel in sight.

I'm sure women have first-hand experience with the problem, too, and I find that automatic hand-dryers usually pump out room-temperature air. Automatic faucets rarely work well, but they're still better than the faucets one has to hold down to get any water. (Has anyone ever successfully washed their hands at a sink with a hold-down faucet?) But I agree with his general point. And I believe most people, given a choice, would prefer good ol' regular faucets and paper towels to unreliable sensors.

But even better than refular faucets are the foot-pedals I found all through Italy. It's the same principle as the hold-down faucets here in the U.S., only you hold a pedal down with your foot. Which frees your hands for washing. It's so simple. No touching a dirty faucet, no forgetting to turn the water off, and no running out of water in 1.5 seconds. And no balky, expensive sensors. It'd be the perfect solution if it weren't for the lack of temperature control. So why haven't I ever seen one over here?

(Not that the bathrooms in Italy are all perfect; too many of them charged 1000 lira to enter, and some of them had holes in the ground where the toilets should be. Still, that foot-pedal idea deserves a Nobel Prize in toiletry.)


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