Wheaton’s Way

When did handles on bathroom taps become 'so very last season'?

I recently found myself dancing the do-si-do in front of a tap in a public toilet and wondered when washing one’s hands had become such a complicated operation.

The facility had been outfitted with sensors on its taps, soap dispensers and toilets. I won’t get too deep into the toilets discussion, but let’s just say I can’t be the only one who sincerely hopes the bowl automatically flushes before the next occupant arrives at the cubicle. I’ve played a game of chicken with the small blinking eye on the wall where the flusher used to be, pretending that I’m leaving the small square foot space, not willing to completely depart until the mechanism kicks in.

Okay, maybe a little deep into toilets, so to speak.

Then it is time to match wits with the sink. I wave my hands under the tap. Nothing. Back, forth. Pull the hands away, put them back in, then you do the hokey pokey and you turn it all about… Same thing with the soap dispenser.

The problem is, it takes a while to figure out if you just aren’t waving in front of the correct place or if the machinery is broken.

Automated services can be a wonderful thing, so long as they work properly. Otherwise, it can be a complete frustration. We’ve all had issues with mobile phones, computers and car systems (don’t get me started on cars – the more electronics on board, the more chance there is for them to go on the fritz) but when the only way to sanitise oneself decides to not play ball, that just isn’t cricket. Running water and hand soap should not be prizes in a restroom scavenger hunt.

After encountering this problem at one venue after the next, I steeled myself for the bathroom in a club in London. A row of sinks and taps awaited me. I started from the far left. Wave, wave…nothing.

I slowly made my way eastward, waving and dancing as I went. Not a single one was prepared to dispense water. This was crazy – what was I supposed to do? Stick my hands in a clean (please, God) toilet bowl? Just as I was preparing to walk back into the club with my hands held high, like a surgeon waiting to be gloved, ready to search for a manager to whom I could complain, another woman walked in. She took a look in the mirror, adjusted her makeup, and lifted the handle behind the one of the taps to wash her hands.

Yup. I hate technology.