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Are you ever bothered by the fact that in most public restrooms the handle you pull to dispense paper towels is slimy from the previous user who pulled on the handle with wet hands?

About two weeks ago I discovered that someone was sensitive enough to this situation to design a paper towel dispenser that gets around this problem. I can't remember where I saw this dispenser--it might have been in a restroom at the Penn Stater Conference Center. What the designer had done was to redesign the handle from the typical 1" by 1" square to a long, horizontal bar about 8" by 2". Furthermore, above the bar was a diagram of how you were supposed to push down on the bar with your entire left forearm, thereby avoiding the need to dispense the towels with wet hands. Perhaps not a perfect solution, but ingenious nonetheless.

There are, of course, far graver problems associated with washing one's hands in a public restroom. Consider the fact that after a people have used a toilet in a stall, touching or rubbing who knows what part of their bodies during the process, the first thing that they touch after leaving the stall is the faucet of a sink. (if, in fact, the person washes his/her hands--otherwise the first thing touched will be the handle of the exit door.) After washing--which could be little more than a one-second rinse with no soap--people then deposit water and whatever is left on their hands on the faucet as they turn off the water. So, there's a lot more stuff to consider before people reach for the paper towel dispenser handle.

I've devised my own OC rituals to work around such contamination worries, although when I'm in a hurry I simply choose not to obsess.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 2nd, 2005 02:11 am (UTC)
I too have my own OC ritual now to get around that, I always get so grossed out in public restrooms from that. I'm liking the towel dispenser idea, though, I wish I could get some of those around here.
Dec. 2nd, 2005 05:15 am (UTC)
restrooms -- part one
I share your desire to avoid germs while cleaning my hands after using the restroom. My favorite place to urinate is Sheetz. In the newly remodeled Sheetz stores, they have a paper towel dispenser that has NO handle! These newer dispensers are designed to allow the user to pull a paper towel downwards. These towels are perforated in a fashion that causes the towel to rip off automatically allowing a new towel to appear. I can pull off three or four towels without touching anything but the towels that I will use. The soap dispenser and the water is motion activated so I don't have to touch anything wet. I carry a small bottle (which I refill from a larger bottle) of a germicide liquid. I use this bottle instead of using the sink. I don't touch nasty, slimy sink/faucet handles when a motion sensor isn't available. After drying my hands (most of the germicide dries if I rub my hands together enough), I can use the bottom of my shoe to push the door open. They don't have handles! Sheetz floors are carpeted and if I walk around for a moment in the store, the bottoms of my shoes *should* be free of the restroom floor liquids (there is almost always a puddle under any of the urinals as many guys apparently "spray"). If I am using a restroom that has a twist style handle, I stand by the door for a few seconds in hopes that someone else will open it and I can exit without touching the door. If I have to twist the handle to exit, then I use some more of the germicide while going to my car.
Defecating is something that I try to do at home. If I have to defecate in a public restroom, I have another ritual that I use. I won't describe that one but I will mention that the toilet seats that are "U" shaped are by far the worst as they leave a gap in the front where my penis and testicles might encounter the cold and wet (it is always wet) porcelain toilet. I haven't tried using the germicide on my penis or testicles. I suppose it would be OK on my testicles and most of my penis but, there are certain portions of my penis that probably would be effected in a negative fashion if they were introduced to germicide.
There was an episode of Seinfeld a while back in which George took off his shirt before using a public restroom. It was funny subject matter but, it made perfect sense to me. Most toilets have an area behind the seat that collects urine and liquid feces and maybe other fluids. That area is seldom cleaned by store employees. If I am wearing a long shirt which I almost always wear as they hide my alien pregnancy, the long, back portion of my shirt is likely to rest between the seat and the tank which means that it will come in contact with some nasty stuff! I am glad that there is usually a hanger or hook on the stall door. Juggling my disrobed shirt, keeping my penis and testicles away from the front part of the toilet, being carful not to let my divers cause a splash (even though I flush before using public toilets), keeping my feet spread far enough apart to avoid stepping in the puddles around the base of the toilet, thinking about how I will slide the door securing lever to the open position when I am finished, and trying to keep my mind occupied by reading the graffiti would be far too much for me to deal with.
Dec. 2nd, 2005 05:16 am (UTC)
Re: restrooms -- part two
As some of you may know, I have diverticulitous. If I eat the, "wrong" foods, I have an urgent need to evacuate. I found myself using a port-a-john in Delaware at a NASCAR race. Given the fact that there were some 200,000 people walking around, drinking alcohol, the port-a-johns were seeing a lot of action. The septic trucks were making their rounds trying to keep up with emptying the facilities. Of course, they weren't able to keep up with the duty (he said, "Duty" *smile*). The port-a-john that I selected from the long green line of boxes was nearly full. When I looked down into the hole, I noticed that there wasn't much more than two inches of distance between the seat and the fluid. I HAD to go. As I went, I felt one of the nastiest things ever. There was a splash that left my ass rather wet. That was a problem that I didn't have a good fix for. I wasn't prepared for this. I used the toilet paper to clean and dry myself but I knew this wasn't a disinfectant method. I found it very hard to enjoy the rest of the day. All that I could think about was that splash and looking forward to a good scrubbing at the hotel later in the day. That was six months ago. As far as I know, I didn't contract anything as a result of this incident. What a mess. There HAS to be something that someone can do to correct these issues.
Maybe a healthy dose of exposure to germs would actually help me by increasing my immunity to diseases. Thanks for continuing my obsession with this topic.
Dec. 4th, 2005 04:55 am (UTC)
Re: restrooms -- part two
I know that I have already written too much about this topice but, something interesting and drectly related was noticed in Sheetz today. I stopped at one of the Sheetz stores that I frequently visit between clients. I stopped there to urinate. As I was using the toilet, I noticed that a rubber mat had appeared. this mat wasn't there yesterday. This mat was in the shape of a common toilet carpet. You know, it fitted around the base of the toilet and stuck out in all directions. the neat thing was that this mat was thick and had holes every 1/4" or so. The idea is that you can now rest your shoes in this rea without coming in contact with the usual dampness that accumulates on the floor. What a step forward!
Dec. 5th, 2005 12:36 am (UTC)
Re: restrooms -- part two
I think the next time I have to take a leak while on campus I will get in my car and drive to Sheetz.
Dec. 5th, 2005 12:41 am (UTC)
Re: restrooms -- part one
If your genitalia weren't so large there would be less of a chance of having them touch the toilet.

Personally, I just hate it when I sit on a toilet to find that I have just dipped my penis in the water at the bottom of the bowl.

I just added your post to my favorite memories list.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )