Saturday, August 9, 2014

Nobody Likes A Cocky Potty


I'm in a toilet stall at the airport, I've done all that I could reasonably have hoped to do, and now it won't flush. There is no handle. I gingerly palpate any protuberance on the fixture that looks promising. I turn around a few times and waggle my fanny in an encouraging manner. I wave my hands over it delicately, then frenetically. I'm Joe Cocker trying to serve tea. I am beginning to get a familiar feeling of stupidity, and the only thing I feel certain of is that there is a hidden camera in here monitored by a luggage-flinger on break, named Leroy.

I resent being sized up by a toilet that pretends to know more than I do about when to flush. I'm not even getting the dubious courtesy of a waiter who wants to know if I'm "still working on that." I miss the toilet handle. I was in control of the handle.

It's all supposed to make life easier, but there's a virtue to seeing a little cause-and-effect, to retaining a little sense of intention, to putting one's hand to a task. Once upon a time people went to the river with a bucket. They fetched water with it. It was easy to understand. The pump handle wasn't as intuitive, but they got the idea after the first time they used it. Eventually we got water delivered right to the house and you turned a handle to get it. There was a handle for hot and a handle for cold. Around mid-century, a single-handle job showed up with a mixer valve. You wobbled it around on its ball like a joystick, trying to find the sweet spot, and after a few years the handle snapped off. Now, you go into someone's remodeled kitchen and find a sleek Swedish-looking number where the handle might flop sideways and it takes a little experimentation to find out how to get your desired product to come out, but you're still in control.

But not in public restrooms, where, often as not, the fixtures are mute and water comes out only when you put your hand under the faucet. Or, more likely, it cogitates for a couple seconds, by which time you've pulled your hands back out, and then comes on, and you slam them back under again. Same thing with the soap. The soap dispenser could well be out of soap, but you're going to wave at it like a conjurer.

If paper towels don't roll toward you on approach, you pass your hands underneath the dispenser, then up along the sides, as though you're trying to locate its aura. You look like a damn mime. Leroy is sitting on a box of paper towels in the storeroom and cackling till he hacks up a loogie.

If everything is working properly, it's just setting you up for a stellar face-plant on a glass door that you thought would open by itself, and doesn't.

Really, the hell with innovation, sometimes. My sainted mother-in-law was once observed on her knees in front of the oven door, trying to pry out the button on her first Butterball turkey with a fork. "Dang it, I know it's done," she muttered, unsure of herself for the first time. This shit makes us cranky, and why shouldn't it? We old people are already getting stupider on our own, and it's just piling on when they keep raising the stupid-bar. Meanwhile, kids still damp from the womb are navigating their electronic world with the grace and alacrity of a ball of mercury on a plate. Not that they would understand that metaphor, because their candy-ass parents had them packed in foam and never let them play with mercury.

Hell. These are people who can look straight into their refrigerators dead sober and declare themselves "out of water." And they think the old farts are stupid.

That's right, foam-butt, we're talking about you and your fancy technology. Don't you roll your eyes at us, Miss Priss, or we'll tear all the buttons off that turkey.

47 comments:

  1. The thing is, once you actually get used to all these bathroom fixtures being activated with a wave of the hand, anytime you walk into a fairly modern looking public restroom, you expect everything to be automatic, and sometimes it isn't -- it's just sleekly designed. There have been many times that I've waved my hands like a crazed magician in front of a paper towel dispenser, only to have someone come up, reach under it, and just pull one out.

    One of my biggest pet peeves concerning public toilets is that the stall doors always seem to open inward. I'm a petite person, but it makes me have to squeeze by the door to get out, a problem that is aggravated in the winter by an overcoat and maybe shopping bags. No matter how small the restroom, it is always larger than the individual stall. Why don't the designers have them open outwards? If I have trouble exiting one, how can a truly large person get out?

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    1. As a truly large person, I can answer that. We back up until we are stradding the toilet, which is a disgusting prospect when you're wearing a maxi skirt.

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    2. I always wondered that too. Thanks for the visual. That might see me through some dark times.

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    3. This truly large person uses the handicap stall, the door to which usually opens outward to accommodate wheelchair users. Some might find that inappropriate, but being large in an increasingly squooshed-in world is a definite handicap.

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    4. I'll never understand why the doors open in. I can't even wedge in there sometimes, even though some of my larger directions have changed over the years.

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    5. If the doors opened out, those leaving the stalls could clock someone passing by. Then there would be unconscious bodies blocking access to the stalls which would make the women's line even longer than it already is.

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  2. This is a riot! Why have to stand up to get a courtesy flush?

    Funny stuff...but too true.

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    1. For. The courtesy flush, they should have an option for a recording of a flush only. And am I the only one who sometimes waits for a neighboring flush to really cut loose with what I need to do?

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    2. Ps I'm in the woods with my iPad and a borrowed cup of wireless and I don't know how to fix typos on this thing, such as in the above comment, so y'all will cut me some slack, right?

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  3. When we started seeing articles all over the place about the growing future role of artificial intelligence, I don't think that toilets deciding for themselves when to flush is what anyone had in mind. We should be using machine intelligence to do things we actually couldn't do without it, like more accurate weather forecasting and autonomous interplanetary space probes, not replacing perfectly simple manual systems like toilet handles that were working fine all along.

    Japan, of course, has far more advanced high-tech toilets than we do. They're so advanced, in fact, that they're at risk of being taken over and remotely controlled by hackers. And that's a scary prospect.

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    1. I just blacked out there for a moment, and will have to check that link later. Much later.

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  4. I see you are wearing the item that my children tell me pegs us as elderly: the envelop or whatever you call it hung around your neck to keep track of all the important documents you need for getting through the airport for flights to other countries. I tell them I don't care! It's handy. That's what age is for---common sense!
    Have fun wherever you are!

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    1. Willamette Writers Conference! The mandatory badge.

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  5. It's all part of the dumbing down conspiracy put forth by those who REALLY control the gubmint. Besides, the damn technology only works some of the time.

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  6. I'm wondering who took the photos.

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    1. Ms. Pat Lichen, my partner in the great Unitarian Gay Pride parade!

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    2. Thank you- that was my question.

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    3. And I'd like to point out that this is not the first time I have photographed Murr in a bathroom. Like Anne Gedde with all those babies perched on flowers, I think I've found my photographic niche.

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    4. There is a limit to what will be photographed in the bathroom, though. Although...I now recall that that limit has already been breeched on Murrmurrs.

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  7. I hears ya. Our local mall installed toilets that flush BEFORE you are done. Nothing like a sudden roar of machinery and water to relax all those important muscles. And our other newest washrooms in town, in Walmart, have one tap working out of three. They are the wavy-on kind, so you have a two out of three opportunity to look like an idiot. Your post is hilarious and like dianefaith I kept wondering who you got to take those pictures!

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    1. You should never use a Walmart toilet, because you should never be in a Walmart. But I get your point.

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    2. I've heard that Walmart moon floss is kind of rough.

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  8. I should know to empty my bladder before visiting here. Gawd, you're funny, woman.

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    1. I recommend doing that in your home toilet, where you still have some control.

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  9. Huge smiles. And, as usual, choruses of agreement.

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  10. Here in Northern Ireland we're quite traditional with our toilet and bathroom fixtures. We're fond of our handles and levers and push-buttons. We're resisting automation strenuously. Even if the handles fall off, the levers get stuck and the push-buttons do nothing. There's no way we're going to stand around waggling our bottoms or our hands or any other part of our anatomy.

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    1. I hope you have a bucket and a nearby stream. Rather than, you know, way lowered standards of hygiene.

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  11. I never fix my typo's.. folks would think my computer had been hacked and someone else was typing.

    funny potty story lol.. they dont give me a handle, I dont care if the damn thing flushes or not~! that's what they get.

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    1. I've got a friend whose emails really lost a lot of panache when he discovered spellcheck.

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  12. Was it one of those loos that flushed itself after you'd exited as the door closed behind you?
    I don't like those taps (faucets) that dispense water when you wave your hands under them and even more I hate the ones that shut off the water before you've properly rinsed off the soap!
    And I don't care how innovative they get with modern this and modern that, for heaven's sake just give me a toilet with enough space on either side to get in there and clean properly! and enough space between the toilet and the door to at least enter and turn around.

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    1. I'm beginning to see why people use Wet-Wipes. Which we must not do.

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    2. We can use them, just not flush them.

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  13. This is all stuff I've thought of, but gawd, you'very made it funny! I may never be able to pee in a public bathroom again without giggling. Hope that is not too unsettling for the woman in the next stall.

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    1. It's getting to where I really ought to be in a bathroom stall if I get the giggles. That's all I'm going to say about that. For now.

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  14. A-men!!! Been there, done that. So many things are automatic now in a bathroom we just assume that holding our hands in the sink will bring forth water, and we get ticked when it doesn't - "you mean I actually have to DO SOMETHING". And I really do have to wash my hands after poking, pushing and stroking every d@%& thing on the back of the toilet to make it flush.
    BTW - how do you get those darn toilets to flush???
    ps - I think a horse thief would be worse than a cattle rustler. You couldn't survive without your mode of transportation, but you could always eat something else!
    pps - do you have your own personal paparazzi to take your crazy photos?

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    1. That's a lot of questions. I'll take the pps: yes. I do. And if I don't have a paparaz handy I'll deputize one. There are probably people out there to this day telling the story of when the crazy lady had them take this weird picture.

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    2. Should have read the comments first - I see that you DO have your own personal paparazzi person - how chic! (if that's still a word)

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  15. If I'm uneasy about the facilities, I kick the seat up and hover over the porcelain. Often, this will trigger the flush, which kicks ups refreshing mist that I would really rather not have on my wifely parts, considering where it came from. I hope to learn, someday, how to pee standing up. I'm a creative, intelligent woman, and I should be able to find a solution.

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    1. I have it on good authority that the way to go (so to speak) involves a capacious skirt, no underwear, and a good feel for which direction is downhill.

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  16. I want to know who assisted you in talking your waggly bathroom stall photos. Those do not qualify as selfies.

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    1. See above. Yes. All my selfies show a gold tooth and a series of chins. I need longer arms.

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    2. You brazen woman! Asking perfectly unsuspecting suspects to take your photos!
      Now I know.

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  17. You think toilets are high tech now. Wait until you see Apple's new iPot.

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