Laura on Life

Touchless bathrooms

By Laura Snyder

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[August 21, 2010]  A public bathroom in the United States is called a "restroom." I have a South African friend who thinks that the word "restroom" is misleading because nobody goes in there to rest. She has a point. I asked her what she calls it. She told me they call it a "loo."

So... do people go in there to loo?

Restrooms on boats are called a "head." One wonders what people do in there. Maybe it alludes to the fact that some people get seasick. One's head would then become one with the, uh... head.

Regardless of what they are called, public restrooms are, in general, revolting. Even the nicest restaurants may sometimes harbor a restroom that is positively frightening.

In my humble opinion, keeping a restroom clean is part of the "service" a restaurant offers. If the restroom is gross, I won't be back. There are plenty of restaurant critics out there. Where are all the restroom critics?

I've always noticed that there is a drain in the floor of every public restroom. I imagine that this is for those times when a toilet reaches critical mass and dumps itself on the floor. Drains in the floor are a good idea.

A better idea would be to use both the floor drain and the sprinkler system to "flush" the restroom of its inevitable germs. This should occur every night and once or twice during the day.

A self-cleaning restroom! I'm brilliant!

The people who maintain public restrooms have made an effort, in past years, to make them "touchless" and therefore "germless." The commodes flush automatically, sometimes scaring the bejesus out of someone who hasn't quite hauled their pants up yet. My daughter was terrified of those when she was younger.

The faucets now provide water when you wave your hand under it... most of the time. You may have to wave your hands under several faucets to actually get water. The soap dispenser spits in your hand when it detects you, most of the time. The air dryer sends hurricane force winds into your wet palms and sends the water dripping off the end of your fingers, most of the time. If you are a child, the wind will blow the water down into your sleeves and it will drip off your elbows.

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All this, simply to protect the client from germs and unpleasantness. We are even willing to put up with the times the detectors fail, because we are playing for the same team. We want a touchless bathroom, too.

Unfortunately, after you've cleaned all the germs away, you still have to grab a questionable door handle and pull it open to exit the restroom. Seems like that's counterproductive.

Your only other option is to wait until someone comes in the door, but you could be in for a long wait. Then you sneak through before it closes.

We apparently understand the need for a touchless restroom, we simply have not achieved it quite yet.

I've always thought the French had a good idea with the bidet. It would need to be touchless like the commodes, but it needs to work every time, without fail; because it's not your hands being waved over it to make it work. This is not optional!

Then, if the idea is a totally hands-free restroom, you'd also need a kind of bidet that blows hurricane force winds onto your hunkers. At that point, there would be no need for toilet paper.

It's germ-free and saves trees! I'm still brilliant!

...OK, the bidet thing might be a little over the top.


Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated columnist, author and speaker. You can reach her at lsnyder@lauraonlife.com or visit www.lauraonlife.com for more info.

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