Hostirad (hostirad) wrote,

A rationally designed paper towel dispenser for obsessive-compulsives

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.

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