Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Public Restroom: A Technological Challenge (Take 2)

I used the restroom in the new wing at the Anchorage Museum yesterday. It was all very sleek and design-y, only brushed metal fixtures, totally clean and spiffy. A thrilling 10 on my personal Public Restroom Rating Scale. I did my business and washed my hands. With soap. From a soap dispenser recognizable as a soap dispenser.

But then I was stumped: how to dry my hands?

Nowhere in all that sleekness and stone walls and minimalism was anything that resembled towels or air. I should have been warned by the motion detector light when I entered: I was entering a Smart Restroom. Actually, a Smart Inclusive (private stall) Restroom that even signaled vacancy:

I’ve had my challenges with restroom technology, chronicled here. But this was going so well: the water turned on, and the soap dispenser fairly shouted normalcy. There were even two hooks on the restroom door because we have purses and we have coats and two hooks is such a convenience and do you see why I’d give it a 10? (And, of course, the two hooks were Museum quality design.)

Behind the toilet, there was a steel plate with some kind of sensor-thing named Toto. Toto flushed the toilet. See what I mean by sleek?

Other than the motion detector for the light, there was nothing else on the smooth, stone-like walls.
I left my private Inclusive Restroom and walked out into a neighboring Inclusive Restroom, thinking maybe mine was the only one missing the hand-drying thing. Nope. It looked the same.

I took my wet hands out to the security guard and asked, “How do we dry our hands?” He said I had to hold my hands under the faucet arms.

Now, you have to tell me: would you have guessed where to dry your hands?

And in case you think the difficulty is not clear by my drawing, I’m going to go so far as to include a photograph. See? (Tim says it looks like a plane landing on the sink.) I’m just proud of myself that I didn’t think the arms were handles to regulate hot and cold.

I held my hands under the faucet arms, and a good blast of air dried them right off. But I challenge anyone – of any age, any Third of their lives – to enter that restroom cold and discover the dryer. Personally, I’d need a little sticker on the arms saying, “Dry hands under here,” but I’d guess that would disrupt the design.

Either that or I could have a lot of fun counting how many people come out shaking wet hands.


  1. Erm, yes; in fact I would have as Dyson is a major brand here (in the UK) and I saw photos of this product in magazines some time ago. Sorry to mention it, but I had to.

    Hope you had a blast!

    1. Yes, a blast of drying air. Once it worked, it REALLY worked.

  2. So, you're saying this is not a cut and dried design?


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