Wednesday, September 27, 2006


green-yellow-bathroom06.jpg, originally uploaded by swardraws.

Okay, let's get the heavy question out of the way first: Does anyone actually dry their hands with these things, or do you just do what I do--give it a shot, then get impatient and dry your hands on your pants?

And who invented these dumb things in the first place?

While we're on the subject, what kind of clever marketing scam got them into every restroom in the world?

And do they have any ideas for marketing a first novel?

All right, I know that's four questions, but we're talking existential here. It's all about the questions...


Meanwhile, the sandy peninsula where I live has been getting some notice in blogland:

Grendel moves to the Cape and discovers just how exciting cable TV can be.(This could lead to another existential question, like 'What the hell have I been doing here all these years?' But we'll save that one for next week.) (While you're visiting EarthGoat, make sure you don't miss the quote by Willie Nelson.)

And Tish Cohen takes a vacation in P-town and gets noticed by THE Miss Richmond.


Sharon Hurlbut said...

Yep, I'm with you on the pants. Or just a lot of waving my hands around. My girls, however, adore those hand dryers. They could stand there all day, even if their hands were never wet. They'd have one in the house if I let them. On a recent road trip we encountered a super hand dryer that blows extremely hard and (supposedly) dries your hands very fast. I literally had to drag the kids away from it. Of course, those automatic paper towel dispensers run a close second. Remember the old days, when we had those revolving towel things? I'll stick with the pants.

Anonymous said...

Shake, shake, shake is what I end up doing...though like the previous commenter, my girls, and now my grandgirls, have been enthralled with them.
I must be missing the gadget gene. Though I kind of like the bright yellow of the one pictured. Most of the ones I've seen, have been dingy, once-upon-a-time white.
They have saved me from embarrassment a couple of times, when I've accidentally splashed water on my blouse at important events - instant clothes dryer :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm with Tinker, I like that hot yellow and might make an exception from my pant-scrubbing to give that one a whirl. But, being a germ freak who does not trust that everyone before me used nearly enough soap, I'd turn it on with my elbow.

Thanks for the drag queen plug, Patry! And don't worry, the best part of the Cape Cod trip (you!) will get a post all its own. The topic will either be finding good friends on the Internet, supporting fellow writers, peering down darkened alleys like morons or fabulous seven hour conversations that leave husbands baffled.

Then I'll do another post (closer to your publication date) about how lucky I am to have read your book and how fantastic it is and how every single person who loves to finally find a story they can't put down should buy The Liar's Diary for everyone they know!


The Curmudgeon said...

Oh great! A pop quiz!

1. Give it a shot, sure, but then go for the inside pockets.

2. I could look it up, but that would be cheating, wouldn't it?

3. It's environmental! See, we use all that power by burning coal or oil to make heat and that saves trees that would grow back if we replant them. No, wait, that didn't come out right....

4. Yes. But they probably won't share.

Grendel said...

I always roll my eyes when I see one of these, which is usually after I've washed my hands (and face -- that's the kicker). But after reading this Wikipedia entry, I have a new respect for them:

Hand dryers have been popular with industries for the efficiency they provide. Energy use is cut by as much as 80% in comparison with hand towels, the only main competitor; consequently, together with reduction in other areas, hand dryers can cut costs by as much as 90%. Neither do they require maintenance after being installed, whereas paper towel stocks need to be replaced, and used paper towels removed.

Due to the reduction in litter and waste in comparison with paper towels (which cannot be recycled), hand dryers are also liked for their kindness to the environment. One source claims that an average fast-food restaurant using paper towels, annually, results in 9 fully-grown trees being cut down, and 1,000 pounds of landfill waste created (paper towels alone amount to 35% of landfill space currently used), though many are often unaware of these consequences. Even before the paper towels are used, each ton has claimed 20,000 gallons of water in chemical cleansing.

Hand dryers, apparently, also improve hygiene. Doctors at the University of Ottawa claim that "the blowing of warm air may lead to an accelerated dehydration of the skin surface, thereby affecting the viability" of the microorganisms, and that the warm air may "penetrate all the crevices in the skin, whereas absorbent towels may not reach such areas, even though the skin appears dryer".

Bernita said...

I'm always afraid I'm going to set off a Titan missile by mistake with all these washroom gadgets...

Anne Bauer said...

I use the dryers, if I have to. Being a compulsive reader, I idly stare at the words etched on the metal plate and usually find, with surprisingly few variations across regions of the US, that some wit has scratched out letters in the user directions so they say "push butt, rub under air. tops automatically."

Patry Francis said...

Oh God, I love these comments--from the hilarious to the informative.

sharon: Funny you should mention that. My runner-up photo featured two children absolutely basking in the hot air from the hand dryers.

tinker: No gadget gene here either. I even have to call my teen-aged son to turn on the TV for me on the rare occasions when I want to watch it (usually while ironing--make that a VERY rare occasion).

Tish: Thank you for the marvelous words about the book. I plan to print it out and pass around in bus stations, tack it on my wall to read when self-doubt hits (every five minutes, as you know) and maybe even get it tattooed on my hand.

When you blog about our historic meeting, let me know. I'll do my own
version and we can compare our accounts are. ("Peering down dark alleys like morons" may well need an entry all its own--maybe even a novel, since for me at least, that seems to be a lifetime affliction.)

curmudgeon: Men always make such good use of their pockets. When I worked buffets as a waitress, one challege always presented itself: how to make it to your table without a disaster while carrying plate, beverage, rolled silverware, and soup cup. Male ingenuity and pocket-use (everything from bottled beer to rolls to silverware) never failed to impress me.

susan: I even use my elbows to open the restroom door. Picture that one, a woman with still wet hands trying to open escape the restroom with her elbow. Not a pretty sight.

grendel: I love Wiki, but I can't help being a little skeptical. That report almost sounds like the PR pitch sent to companies. There's no mention, for instance, of Curmudgeon's point, that these things run on non-renewable resources. And just how efficient are they? For one thing, you have to press the button about three times if you really want to dry your hands. And secondly, people tend to lose patience, most of their energy is expended spewing hot air into the void.

Their point on paper towel waste is well taken though. I never thought about the water used for bleaching. (Why can't paper towels be naturally whatever color they are? Yet another existential question...)

Maybe they should take down on the hand dryers and post a sign that reads: Out of concern for the environment, no hand drying device or paper towels have been provided.
Our advice: shake hands vigorously, then wipe excess on pants.

Or maybe the truly environmentally conscious should start carrying their own handtowel in their purse or back pack.

bernita: You've just given me a very disturbing visual--and a great laugh.

rdl said...

The virgo in me doesn't wipe em on her pants but painstakenly unrolls some flimsy toilet paper from the roll to use.
As for the marketing, i'm ready for the road at a moment's notice and i'll even wear one of those sandwich boards if you like.
And in answer to yesterdays post, my beach, cause i'll be waiting a long time for you to get over that bridge.

rdl said...

just read yr. sign comment - love it!!

gerry rosser said...

I never can get my hands dry with those things, but rather than wipe the remaining moisture off on my garments, I just leave 'em damp, they dry soon enough.

Interestinly, a stydy was done (I couldn't make this up) which showed that most men wash their hands after urinating in a public facility--if there is someone else in the room--most men do not wash their hands if they are alone.

robin andrea said...

I worked at a large university for many years, so I devised all kinds of methods for not touching anything with my bare hands. I have read that those dryers do provide an environmental payoff, so I run my hands under them briefly, then leave them damp. I only miss the paper towels when I have to open the restroom door, and there's no way to do it with my elbow. I'm beginning to think I should travel with a little hand towel. The supermarkets we shop in have wet antiseptic towel dispensers by the shopping carts. They're for wiping down the cart handles. I wouldn't mind seeing one of those next to restroom doors.

Patry Francis said...

R: I've tried that flimsy toilet paper trick, too--doesn't work all that well. Might as well follow the instructions on the sign.

Gerry: And yet somehow we women, who open the rest room doors with our elbows, still find it romantic to hold hands with you guys. Go figure.

R.A.: If you say they're good for the environment, I might be convinced. I do like the little traveling hand towel idea though. We may come to that at some point.

Zhoen said...

Have not read the Wiki article, but I have read of
two studies refuting the theory that they are cleaner. Not only do they grow bugs, they then aerosolize it, so you can breathe it in.

(I leave my clean hands wet, or wipe on pants, if there are only those nasty dryers. Never liked 'em anyway, since my hands never felt dry after anyway.

Patry Francis said...

zhoen: Wow! From now on I'm not even going to pretend to use them. In fact, I'm not even going NEAR them. Thanks for the info.

rdl said...

purse size hand towels for xmas??

Patry Francis said...

Yes, in little plastic cases, of course, so they don't get contaminated by purse gunk.

MB said...

Great new little pic of you Patry!

And thanks to Zhoen for the study link. Yipes!

These things drive me crazy, too — they don't work well, are much too loud, and either too hot or not hot enough. I have no patience for shreds of toilet paper. I either leave my hands to air dry, which leads to chapped skin, or wipe'em on my pants, which isn't the most sanitary solution either. What's a woman to do??

Overmatter said...

I've been in some restaurants lately that sport new-fangled hand dryers -- so powerful that the air stream changes the shape of the back of your hand. You can wave your arm up and down the stream of air and make it look like an alien is invading your body. Fun! (There's one at 33 in Boston.)

Patry Francis said...

mb: Thank you, though your little bluebird is still cuter. And yes, Zhoen's study was truly illuminating! What IS a woman to do?

c-love: I haven't seen them yet, but they sound truly terrifying!

Grendel said...

Thanks, Zhoen. I added your link in the Talk tab of the Wikipedia article.

rdl said...

plastic case? when did you become a germaphob? :D

Anonymous said...

I use them when they're offered. The trick -- even though you won't go near them now for germs -- is to keep rubbing your hands in the direct air stream. I usually have dry but not dessicated hands in less time than it takes for the thing to stop blowing.

I have often wondered whether they were all that good for the environment since the source of their power -- electricity -- often involves the use of other natural resources, including but not limited to petroleum.

There are lots of possible solutions for the whole 9-tree paper towel problem. My true love is taking a course all about drugs and the brain at Harvard Extension this semester, and one of the entries in his textbook explains that we have paper made primarily of wood in this country because a certain Hearst owned a lot of timber land and successfully lobbied to have hemp illegalized, not because it was harmful but because most paper at that time was made of it, not trees. Making paper from truly renewable crops again, not forests, and also from recyclable post-consumer waste paper would eliminate one problem, and composting used paper properly would eliminate another.

Anonymous said...

The best thing about those hand dryers is that so many places insist on keeping the bathrooms at a frigid temperature (especially restaurants!) -- so if there are dryers, I turn them all on to warm the place up. It doesn't really work, but it makes me feel slightly less mad that I can make little fog circles with my breath while I pee. :~)

Patry Francis said...

Grendel: I didn't know about the Talk tab. Now I have to check it out.

r: You are so right! I'm not at all a germ-aphobe. To the contrary, I credit my resistance to viruses of all kind to my constant exposure to germs in the restaurant biz. I was just thinking that with all the change and lipstick in my purse, my lovely little hand towel would get pretty soiled.

robin: Hmmm...another argument for their energy efficiency, maybe? They're cheaper than heat.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever run into Marge Piercy?

I know. I know. About those hand dryers.

Patry Francis said...

colleen: Probably about ten years ago, I saw Marge Piercy and her husband speaking about the publishing industry, but I don't run into her. She lives on the lower Cape, and I'm around Hyannis.

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