Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Public restroom of the future?

This past weekend, I went to a restaurant that - in 1940's gangster movie lingo - would be called a "greasy spoon". I go there from time to time because the food's good and the price is reasonable. Anyway, it had been a while since I went to this place, probably more than a year. No reason - it's just not at as convenient a location as other places I go to.

Anyway, I went the bathroom to wash my hands because I had just gassed the car and my hands got dirty handling the pump. Lo and behold, I saw in this greasy spoon a touch of modern technology that has been appearing in other local restaurants lately: It was the "no-touch towel dispenser", the kind where you just wave your hand in front of the dispenser, and it spits out a section of towel for you so that you don't have to touch a handle to do it yourself. Their dispenser was out of order, and there was a roll of paper towels sitting on top of it, so at least it's good for something. But that's beside the point. The point is that this little greasy spoon even had this wonder of modern technology.

In other bathrooms, you can also turn on the faucet and flush the toilet without touching them. I've been told (but I've yet to see it) that there is such a thing as a "no-touch soap dispenser". On top of that is a news article that I wish I had saved, because it was on a door handle - for your foot! Yep, it's at the bottom of the door, and it's just large enough for someone to insert the tip of their foot so that they can open the door.

So what's with all this "no touch" business? Germaphobia, my friends. All these no-touch devices limit how much we come in contact with these things, which theoretically should limit our chances of exposure to nasty germs and stuff. So far, I've yet to see a bathroom that has all of the above. But imagine that: You enter the bathroom door by pushing it - maybe with your elbow or your shoulder. For men, when you go to the urinal, there's some device there that will flush it for you when you leave. In the toilet stall, there's another device that will flush it for you as well when you're done "taking care of business" (I'm assuming that the ladies' rooms have such devices as well in their stalls. I honestly don't know).

You will still have to handle the stall door to lock it, and you'll still have to handle the toilet paper. Maybe that's something that the bathroom engineers are currently working on (there is this device in the works). Anyway, after that, you can turn on the sink, get some soap, and get some paper towels all without having to touch them. And then we leave by using the foot handle. Them ol' germs have a much tougher time getting to you, but we still need to get that chance of getting germs down further. You still have to sit on the seat, and your shoes still touch the floor.

So what's next? I think that it's Zero-G bathrooms. You just push your way into the bathroom, and float in. No touching anything. There's still the problem of how you "take care of business" in zero-g, because you need gravity to "take care of business". Maybe that's something else that the bathroom engineers can take care of. Still, it's nice to see that there are bathroom engineers out there so dedicated to our hygiene needs.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We have all of the no-touch gadgets that you described in the building where I work, except for the no-touch door. And that's the really critical factor, because there are quite a few people where I work who seem to have no qualms about walking out of the toilet stall and straight out the door. You can tell the people who have noticed the non-handwashers, because they always open the door with a papertowel, then wedge the door open with a foot while they stretch to throw the papertowel away.