Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Shitty Hand Dryer: a cautionary tale of entitlement

I remember the first time I encountered one of those turbo-powered high-efficiency hand dryers a few years ago in a public bathroom. You know the kind: Big. Sleek. Silver. Futuristic-looking. The ones that automatically turn out when you put your hands beneath them, are louder than plane engines, have the ability to blow the flesh off your hands but damn well eliminate all traces of moisture in under 10 seconds.

Wow, I marveled as I regarded my perfectly dry hands, This is an incredible invention. What a awe-inspiring age we live in. 

The next time I encountered one, I was significantly less impressed: Oh look, another one of those cool hand dyers. 

The next time, I was hardly impressed at all: Yeah, that's nice, whatever.

And the time after that, seeing the hand dryer did not even elicit a response in me. I took it for granted. Turbo-powered hand dryers had become the norm, and I'd only notice when they were NOT present.

Recently, I used a women's room that still had one of those old-fashioned hand dryers, the boxy white kind with vents at the bottom, with a round silver button you have to press to begin drying. I pressed the button and the machine kicked on, activating such a weak, slow flow of air that it felt like an asthmatic baby was inside, blowing my hands dry.

What the fuck? I thought, very much annoyed, Am I just supposed to STAND here all afternoon, WILING AWAY THE HOURS, waiting for my hands to dry? Did I take a time machine and end up in 200 BC? This machine is FOR SHIT.

When I finally rejoined David at the table where we we having dinner, I apologized for the delay: "They had one of those super old-fashioned hand dryers in the bathroom. Good God, that took forever. How did we ever use those, like, regularly?"

In reality, the old-fashhiones hand dryer probably took around 30 seconds instead of the 10 seconds the new-fangled hand dryers clock to do the job. That's a difference of 20 seconds. A small fraction of a minute.

My grandmother was just telling me about how she and her family hid out in the mountains around Rome during WW II and the biggest problem, she said, was that there was almost no water. Some of the farms had wells but my grandmother's family didn't have a farm, only a straw hut they stumbled upon when they fled air raids in the city. They had to beg and barter for water, would walk miles in order to bathe. Washing your hands was a goddamn Christmas treat. And the feel of the water clinging to your skin was probably so delicious you wouldn't want to dry them. Though were you to be so inclined, the air around you, when not thick with dust from bombings, would do the job.

In other words, shame on me for being more entitled than Louis the 14th. Shame, shame, shame.

As penance, I should probably force myself to forsake the luxury of the Miracle Hand Dryers for a year. Air-dry only. That'll teach me.