Motion sensor madness
Posted: Thursday, December 4, 2008 12:19 pm
The world’s gone crazy. Stark ravin’ crazy. Americans have become obsessed with finding a more sanitary way of living. Parents are squirting their children’s hands with hand sanitizer every time they hug their grandma, pick up a library book or have an original thought. These squeaky clean children will soon have to live in a bubble. Not my boys. A boy who comes running into the house saying, “Mama, Mama, look at this dead mole the cat brought up from the woods!” is a boy who’s in the process of building up his immunities. And worry not. Both boys claim to thoroughly wash their hands after being outside with the dead animals, the creek mud and the cats and dogs. If you believe that, I have some lovely Dresden beach-front property for sale.
My own brush with the national sanitation obsession occurred recently. I had the privilege of experiencing one of those “hands free” bathrooms. “Hands free” bathrooms are designed so that your delicate hands will never come in contact with the germs of the other foul human beings who are sharing the public bathroom with you. Only one problem. A “hands free” bathroom can cause insanity.
It happened to me last week in the Denver airport. While sitting on the toilet, I shuffled my foot a bit and the massive flush sprayed my entire body. The toilet was operating on a motion sensor and when my foot moved in the wrong direction, the toilet was told to let me have it. The problem? When I finished the task at hand and stood up ... nothing. No flushing. I danced. I shook my body in front of the little sensor. Chubby Checker couldn’t have made that thing flush. So, I gave up. I walked out of the stall to wash my hands. Of course, they didn’t want my contaminated hands to touch the soap dispenser. So I moved my hands back and forth under the dispenser. Nothing. I shook my hands a little. Nothing. I twisted my mouth like I was trying to hit a nail with a hammer. Nothing. Finally, a more talented woman got her dispenser to work and I took what little soap I could get. On to the sink. I moved my hands back and forth under the faucet. Nothing. Finally, I moved my hands with such force that I looked like one of those Russian soldiers whose arms mechanically fling above their heads. And it worked. The water came pouring out. The problem? By the time I got my hands back down from my head, the water had stopped flowing. That added insult to injury. Of course, the great irony to the “hands free” bathroom is that when our hands are the MOST contaminated we put them on the little silver latch on the inside of the bathroom stall to open the door. I wonder if the “motion sensor gurus” lose sleep at night over that one. I bet their dry overly-sanitized little hands are busy plotting a system which will force us to dance our way out of the bathroom stalls one day.
I’d love to share details about the motion sensor paper towel dispenser in the Denver airport, but it would bring back too many painful memories. Suffice it to say, large southern women should never use a nail file and a broken ink pen to tear apart a paper towel dispenser in a major airport. Take my advice. Just wipe your hands on your pants and move on with your life.
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View: Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 12.3.08