January 12, 2012

My Thoughts on Automated Bathrooms

Rarely do I have the honor of using a fully automated public bathroom. Sure, a lot may have the auto sink or the auto toilet, but when toilet flush, sink, soap dispenser, and towel dispenser are all run by robots, it gets you noticing something: this is really dumb.


Are you surprised that my mysophobic face is not a fan of the fully automated bathroom experience? Look, I'm all for not touching things in bathrooms, but there is such a thing as too much technology when it comes to peeing. And let me also say that bathrooms that have all the robotics are usually kept really clean anyway, so the benefit is minimal. It's usually when I'm using a gas station bathroom at a rest stop off I-5 in podunk nowhere that I dream of faucets I don't have to touch.


So I sat down on a thin piece of paper that has no other purpose than making me feel better for not touching a toilet seat, as it surely offers no real hygienic benefit, and peed. The automatic flush was triggered as I stood up, causing me slight alarm (they never cease to startle me, those auto toilets). This was strike 1 for the auto bathroom. I'm sorry, but autoflushers are the least appealing automatic facility in bathrooms. They trigger when they shouldn't, or fail to trigger when they should. Once when it refused to flush, I failed in my quest to find the manual flusher (after trying to approximate the peeing and standing up experience again in the hopes of this time triggering it, to no avail) and I had to eventually leave the stall with pee and toilet paper still in the bowl. I can never go back.

Now to the sink. I placed my hand under that rare beast, the automatic soap dispenser. Even though I know it's soap, I feel dirty placing my hand under a phallic piece of metal, waiting for it to shoot a white sticky substance onto my hand. I massage the pre-measured splooge of soap into my hands and then attempt to trigger the autofaucet. Nothing. I move my hand around in a horizontal circle, hoping to find the mysterious laser. I appear to be doing some kind of tribal bathroom dance as I search for the trigger point when I trigger not the faucet, but the soap dispenser again. Why, thank you. It's even more lovely when I'm not expecting it. The faucet now comes alive. Rinsing, rinsing. It stops. I still have soap on my hands, thanks to your buddy over here. Faucet is running again, rinsing, rinsing. Soap dispenser dispels more soap, this time just into the sink. I notice there is actually a bog of soap in the basin, so clearly it's not just me the soap dispenser does this to.


Finally, hands clean and wet, I approach the automatic paper towel dispenser. I wave it at like it's an acquaintance I'm pretending to be happy to see. A paper towel emerges. I stand there, drying my hands, as a woman walks by to exit the bathroom. Her moving body triggers the other dispenser. It grumbles like an old desktop printer, dispensing a towel to absolutely no one. The auto towel dispensers are triggered by every person who walks past them, eventually generating long stretches of paper towel that reach the trash bin below them. I shake my head and leave too, triggering yet more paper to crawl out into the world.

So here's the issue. Automatic bathroom functionality could be awesome, with its promises of touch-free restrooms, but it's not. Besides, even with all this touch-free technology, you still touch the stall door and the main door. But don't misunderstand me: I don't want autodoors. I can handle it when the toilet flushes for no reason. I don't want the stall door opening unexpectedly.

So despite the possible benefits of bathroom robotics, I have to say I'm not a fan. It just seems like a great way to waste power and water. And towels. I'd rather have a sink operated by a foot pedal than an autosink. But apparently only doctors scrubbing into surgery get those.