Hand Dryer Technology
by Dan Vander Ark
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According to various scientific experiments, numerous government studies, and my mom, washing your hands when you use the restroom is important. Very important. In fact it is so important that there are now a multitude of state regulations that mandate that employees must wash their hands before they return to work. I am guessing that somewhere along the line a generation grew up that didn’t have moms like mine; thus it fell to the government to enact the CINTG (Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness) Statute.
Back in the Middle Ages people dried their hands on weathered buffalo skins and/or papyrus mats. But those always seemed to jam up the dispensers. So dispensers were dispensed with until a better way to dry your hands was invented.
Cloth or linen towel dispensers were invented somewhere about the same time that cars and roads were concocted and people needed to stop and “use the facilities” (it proved too difficult to tow the family outhouse). So when you went into the gas station and used the bathroom you just pulled down on the towel until you came to a clean spot and then wiped your hands. I think the giant towel was unfortunately on a loop, so after about a day or so it was pretty dirty looking. Eventually you just looked for a little white spot between the grease and other crud to dry your hands.
(Just a little regional trivia here: in North Dakota I had a friend that would say “I am going to see a man about a horse” when nature called.)
Next on the dry-your-hands-at-the-gas-station-timeline were paper towel dispensers. Brown paper towels made out of recycled newspaper, algae and duck feathers. But more often than not the paper towel dispensers were jammed so full that all you were able to get out were ripped little shreds of a paper towel. You then proceeded to dry little itsy bitsy portions of your hands until you were done (or the gas station closed, whichever came first).
Also somewhere along this dispenser timeline were the type with cranks, but we don’t have time in this doctoral thesis to discuss those contraptions.
Next came wall mounted blow dryers. Those were pretty good – you weren’t wiping your hands on relooped greasy rags or tiny flecks of brown paper anymore. Your hands were blasted with hot air for about 30 seconds or until you just decided to wipe them on your pants. I usually let the blast go for about 10 seconds – and then wiped them on my pants. However, there was one wall-mounted blow dryer in a store we went into recently that blew so violently you wondered if your skin would peel off. I am not making this up. It reminded me of how the faces of Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase looked after being spun in that astronaut centrifuge thing in the movie “Spies Like Us.”
The latest trend in bathroom technology is toward infrared sensor towel dispensers. They seem to work pretty well – except when you actually need a towel. I have been standing by the sink several feet away from the dispenser when it has mysteriously dispensed a towel all by itself! Its spooky – those paranormal ghost hunters on one of those cable TV channels should do some investigating. I bet if they did some audio recording at night in one of those infrared sensor equipped bathrooms and then played the recording backwards, you would hear this, “!sgnikiV atosenniM eht rof yalp lliw yervaF treB.”
But there is one thing you really need to be aware of with those infrared sensor dispensers. And that is simply this: Where does the motion need to be at?” On most, the sensor is on the front, so you just wave your hand a little and out comes a towel. But at the church we have just begun visiting I couldn’t get the dispenser to dispense and I was feeling a little embarrassed. I waved my hands up and down – nothing happened. I then waved them sideways – but still no towel. Was I supposed to do jumping jacks? I backed up and waited for the restroom poltergeist to have at it. But still nothing.
I was just about ready to dry them on my pants when I decided at the last moment to slowly wave my hand underneath the front of the dispenser. To my delight I heard the familiar JSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSZZZSHSDSSHSHSZZATTTT – and out came a towel! I was giddy that I didn’t have to do jumping jacks!
Now if you could just get out of there without having to touch that germ infested door.
Dan Vander Ark
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Oh my goodness! This is hilariously true! I'm old enough to remember all of these dastardly dispensers. Thanks for making me smile. ( :
This is so funny. What's really bad is when I wave my hand at the towel machine and then someone comes behind to 'help' the old lady - she reached down and pulled it out - oops, wasn't automated. How's a person to know? LOL. Very funny piece!