More Amusing Signage (Rant alert)

02 Jul

So have you noticed that 90% of hand dryers in public restrooms have the same little sign posted on them? (I actually managed to look this up online to verify that I’m remembering it correctly… Hee! I so enjoy the internet…)

  1. Dryers help protect the environment.
  2. They save trees from being used for paper towels.
  3. They eliminate paper towel waste.
  4. They are more sanitary to use than paper and help maintain cleaner facilities.

Notice that nothing is said on there about actually getting your hands dry. We all know that if you use one of those hand dryers, you will always end up giving up before it’s done, walking away, and wiping your hands on your jeans. I think the only reason the manufacturer has to have signs lauding the virtues of these little guys is because we all know they don’t work well, and we need to have something to placate our annoyance at having to use them. I mean, nobody walks into the restroom and goes, “Oh, goodie! They have hand dryers!” My first instinct is to look around to see if it’s one of those compromising bathrooms that offers paper towels, too.

I imagine that if the situation was different, and hand dryers worked properly and paper towels didn’t, the towels would have their own little sign. “Paper towels are made of 100% real trees. They help conserve electricity, and they help prevent forest overpopulation. They provide jobs for janitors and trash collectors.” Positive spin makes a world of difference.

I think the language of these hand dryer signs is a little amusing too. “They save trees…” I know this is a relatively common (and legitimate) way to phrase this, but the imagery struck me as funny today. I have news for the hand dryer folks: The tree doesn’t care. Why not? Well… because it’s a tree. I’m sure if it had a brain, mouth, or any sort of emotional response to its environment, the tree would thank the heroic hand dryer makers. But lacking all of those things, I imagine the tree isn’t especially opinionated about whether it gets to chill out in the forest or is ground into pulp to be turned into paper. I’ve never seen a logging truck hauling a bunch of trees down the highway and heard them screaming, “Nooo! Don’t let them wipe their hands on me!” I’m all for conservation and the wise use of our resources, but it’s pretty dramatic to put it into terms of salvation, don’t you think? (Never mind that we’re saving trees by using up a bunch of electricity.)

I also like how these signs talk about hand dryers making for cleaner facilities with less paper towel waste. I think that’s a terribly ingenius cover-up for not wanting to have to pay the janitor to take the trash out every few hours. I really don’t suppose that places which install hand dryers want cleaner facilities in order to make things more enjoyable for the consumer–if they were that concerned about a pleasant bathroom break experience, they would just give us the paper towels. But clean facilities equals less upkeep, which is good news for the people who own the bathroom.

So the next time I’m walking away from a hand dryer and wiping my hands on my jeans, it’s nice to know I’ll have something to laugh about.


21 responses to “More Amusing Signage (Rant alert)

  1. Steve

    July 2, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    I haven’t met you yet, but I love your blogs and the way you think. Girls obviously spend a lot more time in the rest room than guys. Most guys don’t read the hand dryer machine, cause they don’t wash their hands. If they do, jeans or shirts are the ONLY choice for guys.
    Actually, I don’t like touching the handle to the paper towel dispenser – it’s usually soaking wet.

  2. Amanda Beattie

    July 2, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    Steve: Thanks for the comment. 🙂 I think it’s a pretty well established fact that women do spend a great deal more time in restrooms than guys. Just check out the lines at any public event… the men’s room door is shut because everyone fits inside, while the women’s line is out the door and doubled back on itself at least once.

  3. Jenn S. (a.k.a. Ducky)

    July 2, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    About point 4: what about the hand dryers that have push buttons instead of motion detection? Every time I see one of those, I wince, because I am convinced that whoever used the restroom before me just rinsed their hands and then smacked a dripping, germ-covered palm onto the button…

    I would also like to point out that it doesn’t really matter whether paper towels or hand dryers are more sanitary. The people who don’t wash their hands just get their germs all over the door handle on the way out anyway.

    P.S. I am more than a little OCD about germs. My work assignment during my internship was detail-cleaning the bathrooms. I think I have gotten worse since then.

  4. zackhensley

    July 3, 2007 at 2:49 am

    Word! Steve I hate touching the handle on the paper towel dispenser. I’ve actually used my elbow before. or if i had on longsleves would cover my fingers with the sleve. if all else fails I use the heel of my hand. I remember one time wishing I was like Luke Skywalker, just so I could use the ‘force’ to push down the handle. It’s just gross!!

    oh and hand dryers are worse. I’m the guy that actually stands there through 3-4 pushes to get my hands dry…

  5. Christine

    July 3, 2007 at 4:10 am

    Wow. It’s always nice to see someone persevere with the hand-dryers. I have done it a few times myself, but I always kind of mocked myself in my head. Way to be, Zack. Way to be.

    Amanda – I’m so glad you mentioned the electricity used. That’s one of those things that always crosses my mind when I see those signs. Doesn’t it take power to run these ridiculous little things?

    Most paper towels I encounter in public restrooms seem to be made of impressively substandard recycled paper. I figure the recycled paper that they can’t possibly pass off for anything else ends up in the paper towel dispenser when all is said and done. Not many trees being slaughtered right there.

  6. brian

    July 3, 2007 at 8:33 am

    I’ve heard it recommended that the careful restroom user (1) get a paper towel and stick it in their armpit, (2) wash and dry their hands, (3) use the towel to turn off the faucet (4) open the door, and (5) discard the valiant and now highly toxic towel in a waste receptical outside the restroom confines. That’s OCD.

    I wish Mark had mentioned using the restroom in chapter 16 next to the “drink poison unawares” comment. I’d feel safer.

  7. Dorean Beattie

    July 3, 2007 at 10:39 am

    Oh my! You’re pushing my buttons today! Here are my thoughts:

    1. Saving trees: Paper is made from the bits of trees left over after every usable bit of tree has been used for lumber. It is slivers, sawdust, etc. that gets used. If we quite using any paper at all, it wouldn’t save any trees, it would just make us find another way to dispose of all the left over bits. (I like your image of the trees screaming for mercy!)
    2. I actually saw a woman go through the routine your dad mentioned, except she took it one step further. After she had turned the faucet on, washed, and turned the faucet off, she then used her paper towel to touch the paper towel button to get a clean towel to dry her hands on! I was amazed.
    3. While the electric dryers waste electricity, and paper towels leave a messy bathroom, I think either is better than a travesty you have probably never experienced. The automatically clean cloth towel… This used to be in public restrooms back when I was a kid.

    Right after the janitor had done his/her job, it resembled a paper towel holder, except with a loop of white fabric hanging out the bottom. (For some reason, the towel always had a red or blue stripe near each edge…) The idea was that you yank on the front side of the towel, bringing out a clean section of towel, while (when all goes as planned) the dirty, back part of the towel goes back into the machine. I always wondered how separated the nasty part of the towel was to the clean part once it got back inside the machine. I just have the feeling it couldn’t be good! Added to that was the fact that at some point during the day whatever miracle happened inside the machine quit working, and instead of the towel going back into the machine, it just hung there. Therefore, what you have by the end of the day is a long, filthy loop of fabric, often hanging all the way to the floor, and no more miracle clean fabric coming out the front of the machine. That means you are left with soaked hands, looking desperately for a clean spot to use. Which, I must admit, was usually my jeans… It’s funny that with all this advancement of technology, the solution remains the same: a good, clean pair of jeans…

  8. Mrs. I

    July 3, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    It’s definitely elbows only on the paper towel dispender handle!!!!

  9. Mrs. I

    July 3, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Okay, I meant to spell “dispenser.”

  10. Amanda Beattie

    July 3, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    I love how we seem to have discovered a new hot-button topic…

  11. Christine

    July 3, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    I have experienced that travesty!!! My favorite place in KC to get drinks, Tea Drops, has such a hand-drying devise in its bathroom. Those things are scary.

  12. Amanda Beattie

    July 3, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    Now I want to go to Tea Drops just to see their bathroom. I vaguely remember seeing one of these things once when I was pretty little…

  13. Christine

    July 4, 2007 at 4:33 am

    Well… if you happen to decide that you want to head down there to check it out, let me know and I will gladly accompany you. 🙂

  14. Stumpy and Stil

    July 4, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    Stumpy once heard it’s better to use paper towels because hand dryers actually suck germs up off the bathroom floor onto your hands. If that’s true they completely negate the purpose of washing your hands in the first place! Urban legend or one more truth the paper towel fiends can use in their favor???

  15. Steve Bunkoff

    July 4, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    Just wanted you to know that I’ve added your site to my bloglist. How about this for a topic. The amount of toilet paper used. During WWII, Americans were asked to ration many things for the war effort. Our parents told us that they were allowed 1 square or 2 squares depending on “your need” at the moment. Now THAT’S scary. That’s when I’d like to start believing for multiplication.

  16. Lauren L

    July 4, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    I’ve seen those looped devices, there was one at my grandmother’s neighborhood pool when I was little! The best answers I believe are the paper towel dispensers with sensors and the new hand dryers we have in town. They are so powerful that the skin on your hands ripples and your hands are dry in a completely reasonable time! Neither solution helps the environment, but it solves the germ problem.

  17. Amanda Beattie

    July 5, 2007 at 1:59 am

    Steve: Terrifying. If I have nightmares tonight, I’ll know why.

    Lauren: I love automated paper towel dispensers. So much fun. I’ve heard about these turbo dryers but never experienced one.

  18. Christine

    July 5, 2007 at 5:58 am

    The automated paper towel dispensers with the sensors on them never seem to see me. It’s like I become invisible when I get my hand in front of one of those things. The sink sees me. The toilet saw me. The soap dispenser saw me (yeah, automatic soap dispensers are just kind of a bad idea). But the paper towel dispenser just sits there staring blankly as if I was not wildly waving my arms in front of it and pleading with it to dispense some paper towles. Sigh… the repeated rejection has led me to somewhat despise the automatic ones.

  19. Amanda Beattie

    July 5, 2007 at 6:24 am

    Or if it sees you and gets a bit overenthusastic, feeding you two yards of paper towels… that’s fun too.

  20. Dorean Beattie

    July 5, 2007 at 10:45 am

    OK, speaking of those Turbo Hand Driers, there was a place in Tulsa that had those. All the little kids learned very quickly you could make some really crude noises by placing your hands together just right… Real close, so the skin that was getting rippled around slaps together… I found that with practice, I could get that same sound using one hand, getting the wind to blow between my fingers. I still think I deserve a ribbon for that accomplishment! All I ever got, though, was a funny look when I was practicing the sound, not realiziing there was someone else in the restroom at the time! (No, I wasn’t a kid at the time; this was just a couple months ago… My face is red…)

  21. Wendy

    July 13, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    Wow, I am amazed at how much zeal is involved in paper towels, the New Zealander is going to throw something out there. In New Zealand very few public bathrooms have paper towels, many have the hand dryer and others have like a revolving hand towel, you pull the button and the hand towel moves around, giving you a clean cloth towel to dry your hands. You are a friend to trees and electricity and no one loses their job because someone needs to replace the hand towels and wash it.

    I don’t think anyone wants to start to think about how they do it in India…..


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