The room of bad inventions

The world’s worst inventions can all be found in one room, and oddly enough it’s the room where we expect to rest.

The Tin Basher Blog is one I always mean to read, and usually get around to, but lately you’ll notice I haven’t gotten around to much of anything blog related. Anyway, I was cathing up on the Basher, and noticed his link to bad inventions. The first one, the electric hand dryer, caught my eye and the wild muse grabbed my hands. I hate electric hand dryers. But that’s not what got me started.

What really got me going was that I realized as I thought of bad inventions, that the worst of them could be found in one room: Public bathrooms. All of the world’s most annoying, worst designed, and frankly offensive inventions are to be found there. Please forgive the rant, but here’s a list I can think of without much effort:

  • Hand dryers (of course!) – like the Guardian says, they either leave you wet or burned, or late. Folks, a blast of hot air is just not an effective way to dry people’s hands. I’d rather use a sanitizing spray that wash and dry with a hot air dryer.
  • Push-on faucets. Yes, they work fine for the first 8 days of their life, but then one of three things happens: They break, so they turn off as soon as you let go. This yields a very nasty soap-ridden faucet no one wants to touch. Or worse yet the owner simply turns the delay time down to reflect local cleaning habits – a quit spritz just to wet the fingers. Or, and probably most annoying, the faucet has degenerated into a permanent-on condition, making a concerned citizen investigate and try to fix the faucet.
  • The spring-loaded toilet paper dispenser intended to increase the friction on the roll, roll-rotation limiters, and other implements to encourage the paper-takers to take much less paper. When combined with the faulty faucet, these really have you wondering about the intentions of the bathroom owner.
  • The various “clever” means of limiting paper towel usage. First it was just the simple but annoying push-the-button-for-your-towel approach, but lately these things have increased the sophistication level to wave-your-hand-for-your-towel. Again, I wonder what message the bathroom owner is sending when they install these things.

Now it’s clear where the motivation for all these embarassments came from – bathroom owners wanting to reduce the seemingly massive cost of running a bathroom. I mean, it’s not a piddly expense like heath care or national security, we’re talking toilet paper, hand towels, and hot water here!

But the thing that has me so perplexed is that we don’t tend to find this idiocy in the really poor/high volume places, like a local restaurant or bar. I’ve been in pretty swanky hotels, offices, and other fancy places where my impression was soaring until I went to answer the call of nature. After negotiating the obstacle course of personal hygene, I’ve become convinced the owner really has nothing but contempt for me. What are they saying when they clearly don’t want me to have a penny’s worth of low-grade paper?

At least I’m not the guy who invented these things. If one invented, say, anti-personnel mines, at least one could rationalize they were acting in national interest or helping to reduce a greater conflict. But what do you tell yourself when all you’ve done is deny people a basic necessity?

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