The Incredible Flushing Toilet and Other Pet Peeves of Automatic Bathrooms


Published: April 15, 2010

I generally resent measures to go green, but I take part in them anyway. The day I stopped buying paper plates and plastic forks in bulk at Costco and started washing my own dishes was a frustrating day, but I chalked it up to pretending to be a grown-up and moved on. That’s why I didn’t complain so much when all those crazy automatic bathroom utilities started popping up. Not only are they sustainable, but they also promote hygiene and general cleanliness—what’s not to love? I have a few ideas. Let’s break them down:

Toilets: We’ve all been there: you walk into a public restroom and somebody forgot to flush. All kinds of unpleasantness lurks in the stall and many people get irrationally freaked about stepping in to flush the toilet themselves. Not to mention the awkward subtle embarrassment when you emerge from the bathroom and pray that the person who saw you leave doesn’t think it was you who didn’t flush. Luckily, there’s a solution to that problem: the automatic flushing toilet. It’s awesome, because it flushes once when you’re in the process of hanging up your purse and removing your jacket, and then again while you’re still seated on the toilet. Nothing says hygiene like toilet water splashing on your bare hindquarters. So sure, we may avoid the awful un-flushed toilet, but these toilets are using twice as much water and trying to flush their users mid-use. I’ll put my foot on the little lever, thank you very much.

Hand Dryers: Look, I know the Xlerator Hand Dryers are more
efficient at actually drying your hands than those things that used to be pretend to be hand dryers. So you put your hands under them for 10 to 15 seconds and without touching anything, killing trees or littering the bathroom floor with excess paper, voila! Ready to go. The problem is that I’m pretty sure one day I will have permanent damage from the way the 75 mile-per-hour gust of air shoots out and tries to push the skin right off my fragile little hand bones. Nobody’s hands need to be that dry.

Automatic Towel Dispensers: I will take a hand dryer over those stupid automatic towel dispensers any day, however. You know the ones. They spit out a square of toilet paper and expect that it will be enough to dry your hands. It’s not. These things actually end up wasting more paper because I have to go back two or three times just to get enough paper to dry my hands. And I have little hands! Not only that, I have completely exhausted of the monkey dance you have to do each time you’d like to request an inch of paper towel. I don’t like to work for dry hands, and this circus routine is getting ridiculous.

Sinks: Again with the dancing. There’s nothing like lathering up your hands with soap, often with your bag tucked between your knees to keep it clean and dry, to start the awkward lean, wave, reposition, repeat process of getting the water to actually come out of the faucet. Suddenly geometry comes into question as you’re forced to calculate the exact angle of your hand placement in relation to the spigot. Once you’ve got it under control, of course, the sink decides you don’t need any more water. I’m happy we’re trying to save water, but if those pesky automatic soap pumps—which I won’t even bother getting into—didn’t give me so much foamy blue soap, I might be able rinse my hands off in the 4.3 seconds the sink allows. But honestly, my biggest question for the automatic sinks is why it’s so hard to get the water to rinse your hands, when as soon as you lean over the sink, it’s sure to soak your pants or spray on your top. ’Splain, Lucy.

All this automated business makes me question what’s next. If we’re trying to go green and save paper, does that mean toilet paper in public restrooms will soon be a thing of the past? Will the magical mid-use flushing toilet team up with the Xlerator to blow your buttocks clean and dry? In an effort to save water, will sinks be replaced with automatic hand sanitizer dispensers that give you more alcohol-based goop than can air dry at any given time? Many get freaked out that they have to touch the doors of the bathroom after they’ve washed their hands—perhaps the ridiculous monkey dance can be applied to automatic doors in the bathrooms, forcing you to do an elaborate move combination to ensure the door doesn’t open unnecessarily. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t wait for the future! Somebody call the Jetsons, our bathrooms are about to be turbo-charged!