Can't touch this.

Lately I've been noticing a lot of commercials on television that seem to be pushing the auto-everything faucets for the home kitchen and bathroom.  I've even seen motion-sensor soap dispensers for sale at Lowes.  I think this technology is probably not destined to do well in the home, at least not at first.  People in general (and me in particular) aren't inclined to replace faucets that work, so the overall adoption rate on this sort of thing will be slow in coming. Also, replacing a washer is a lot easier than replacing an entire faucet, and these technological wonders have electronics and batteries inside.  All that just means there's more stuff to break, and when it does break, it's more costly to fix.

We've had these things in the workplace for years now, and it does make some kind of sense in that environment. It basically idiot-proofs the bathroom against both regular idiots and malicious idiots.   The regular idiots are the ones who don't flush, and the malicious idiots are the ones who plug up the sink drain with toilet paper and then turn the faucets on full blast because they think it's fun.

The companies who make these things also mention the sanitation benefits of not having to actually touch the germ-laden surfaces of the bathroom, but most places fall short in providing the total package.  Where I work, for instance, they have the auto-flush everything, the auto-water faucet and auto soap, but they make you do the paper towels and open the door to the bathroom manually.

There's always the small percentage of scummers that don't bother to wash their hands, so I make sure I open the exit door with a paper towel.  Unfortunately, I never even thought about the paper towel dispensers themselves until I saw a guy do this:  He came out of the stall, hit the button on the paper towel dispenser a few times so his fresh paper towel was hanging there, then he washed his hands, tore off the hanging paper towel, dried his hands and left.

Good for him, but bad for the rest of us who have been unwittingly palming the poop-covered button *after* washing our hands.  So now I always push the towels first too -- yes, I realize I'm touching someone else's personal strain of e.coli, but I'm also secure in the knowledge that I'll be thoroughly washing it off before it has a chance to migrate up my arm.  Sure, you could argue that I'm now part of the problem, and I'd refute that by saying who gives a shit because now it's your problem and not mine.  So there you go.  Just a little PSA from me to you.

I think they should have everything automated, including the paper towels, and *especially* the door to the stall. You don't even want to think about the amount of invisible crap germs just sitting on that little knob you have to touch in order to lock and unlock the stall door.  Just think about the last place your fingers were right before you touched that knob.  And don't say your phone or I'll have to kill you.

There are a few drawbacks to the auto-everything model though.  As with all technology, sometimes things don't go quite as planned.  A few of my favorites include:

The Soap Job -- This happens when you put your hand under the soap dispenser, get a big gob of liquid soap spit into it, and then when you put your hand under the faucet sensor, nothing happens because the piece of shit sensor battery is dead.  Not a huge problem if you've got more than one sink and at least one of them is working, but I've been stranded a few times trying to get gooey soap out from under my wedding ring with paper towels that have the consistency of tree bark.

The disappearing seat cover --  This is where you go into a stall, take out a paper seat cover, carefully place it on the seat, turn around to drop trou and just before you sit, the toilet flushes your seat cover so you have no choice but to do the 180-degree pants-down waddle, pull another seat cover out of the holder and try again.

The bad lean --- This is where you're sitting there minding your own business, and as you innocently lean forward to put your elbows on your knees, your upper body gets far enough away from the sensor that the toilet flushes, spraying your exposed ass with cold toilet water of questionable cleanliness. Even worse, sometimes this will happen during the clean up phase, and you'll get hit with water a half-dozen times and finally end up doing a standing wipe just to avoid having toilet water running down the back of your legs.

The flip side of this is that as the technology becomes more prevalent, we get more and more used to it.  Take work, for instance. If the place you work has auto-everything, you might find yourself at a friend's house standing stupidly in front of the bathroom sink dry-cupping.  In other words, standing there like an idiot waving your cupped hands back and forth underneath what is clearly a regular faucet, waiting for the water to magically appear.  (Note: I've done this.)

The other issue is more serious.  It's what I like to call the ULB, or unintentional leave-behind.  Say you're at a friend's house attending a little dinner party and you've disappeared for a few minutes to drop the kids off at the pool.  You finish up, wash your hands, leave the bathroom, and head back to the party before anyone misses you.  Then a few minutes into dinner, you realize that you forgot to flush, so you have to pretend to choke on your food and run back to the bathroom to get rid of the evidence before anyone else can get in there.  (Note: I've never done this.*)

As for the solution to the first couple of problems, I have another little PSA for you:  When you first go into a auto-flush stall, take a small length of TP, say maybe six inches or so, and drape it over the sensor in the back.  Problem solved.  You're welcome.  Just remember to take it off when you leave, to prevent your own ULB.   As for the ULB when you're at a friend's house, well,  you're on your own there.

Maybe don't get so drunk next time.

*that you know of.


Dinette Future.

I'm back from another session of Powershell training at the old home office in Scranton, PA and I have to say it was not the best trip of my life.  The flight out was delayed, as per usual with the new United/Continental mash-up, and once we finally took off I knew it was going to be bad when the pilot told us to "expect a bumpy ride" the entire way.

He wasn't lying.  The turbulence was the worst I'd ever experienced on this trip, and I never felt one of those little jets bounce around so much before.  I originally had the last seat against the wall back by the bathroom, but the flight wasn't quite full so I was able to move to a window seat directly over the wing.  I basically traded the smell of pee and a seat that doesn't recline for a view of the wing bouncing up and down like a diving board, so I'm not sure it was such a great idea.

The plane was making sudden dips from right to left and bobbing up and down so much that I was alternating between being pushed down in my seat and straining weightless against the seat belt.  It was so rough on the final descent that when the flight attendant came on the loudspeaker and gave us her "final approach" speech, she sounded like she was being punched in the stomach after every few words.  She said "Due to the turbulence, it's not safe for me to walk down the aisle, so please make sure your electronic devices are off and your seat backs are in their full upright position."  You could tell by her voice that what she was actually thinking was "We're all going to die."  It was also a blatant admission that both of those safety requirements have jack-shit to do with a successful landing of any kind.

We hit the runway a little hot, slammed on the brakes and coasted in safely.  I was never so glad to be on the ground in my life.  As we were leaving the plane, or "de-planing" as they call it for some unknown but surely ridiculous reason, I waited for the the old guy in the seat in front of me to work his way out of his seat. He shuffled down the aisle and then paused at the front where the pilot and the flight attendant were bidding people goodbye.  "I'm wondering if you can help me," he said to the flight attendant.  "Sure, do you need help with a connecting flight?" she asked.  "No," he said. "I'm just wondering if you could tell me where the nearest underwear store is."  I liked him immediately.

When I got to the hotel, I was once again pleased with the Hampton Inn's policy of giving not a single  fuck about the type of room I actually reserved.  They took my name and then told me that they had no more non-smoking rooms available.  The same thing happened to me last time, and even though I am normally pretty laid back, it was late, I was tired, hungry, and pissed.  I told them their no-guarantee policy was bullshit, and since I had no other choice, I'd take the room for a night, but I was checking out and going somewhere else in the morning.  They offered to spray the room for me, but I declined, knowing that would only make the room smell like a french whore who smoked three packs a day.

It was worse than I expected it to be.  Not only did the whole place reek like smoke, there was a connecting door to the adjacent room, and the person in there was smoking like it was their job.  I could actually see the smoke haze in my own room.  I rolled up a towel and put it along the bottom of the door, then spent the next five minutes jamming kleenex in the gaps around the rest of the door (sorry, housekeeping.)  It helped, but I still woke up in the morning with red eyes and sore lungs and an almost irresistible urge to burn all my clothes.

When I checked out I got them to admit what their policy actually is -- they are owned by Hilton, and they routinely over-book the hotel.  If you are a member of the "Hilton Club" and you want a non-smoking room, you get to bump poor bastards like me to the smoking rooms.  I have no idea what the requirements are to be in their club, but I think I'm going to have to look into it because the only other hotel within walking distance was something called the "Extended Stay America" chain of hotels.  I knew nothing about them, but I had to get out of the smoking room, so I called them and booked the next three nights sight-unseen.

If you've never stayed there, the best way to describe it is it's like staying in a dirty RV without the wheels.  You have a kitchenette, a bathroom, a bed, a desk and a chair.   People cook and eat in the rooms so the entire place smells like an old folk's home.  A combination of dirt, onions, air-freshener and cigarettes.  The rooms were slightly cleaner than the lobby and hallways, but unfortunately, even though the sheets appeared clean, the pillows and blankets smelled like dirt.  Not like outside dirt, but like sweaty body/dirty hair dirt.  I stripped it all off the bed in disgust and conducted a bed bug check just to be on the safe side.  Surprisingly, it seemed ok, but I was still pretty careful to keep my suitcase zipped up.

I could immediately tell what kind of place it was.  There are certain rules of thumb you can take to the bank -- two of which are the better the hotel, the higher the quality of the bathroom sundries and the quieter the toilets.  Extended Stay America doesn't even provide shampoo.  You have to bring your own, or hope they have some at the front desk.  So I knew immediately that the toilets were the ramjet, suck-a-towel-down-without-even-thinking-twice type, and those bastards will wake the dead.

I've stayed in nastier places while I was spending my own money, so I guess it could have been worse.  At least I could breathe the air without it burning my lungs, curry fumes be damned.

The training itself, I'm sorry to say, was hard for me.  I am a bad programmer, and that's the hard truth.  My brain just isn't wired that way.  A lot of it was just a more in-depth view of what we went over in the first half of the training last month, so at least I wasn't completely lost.  The worst part of this class was the language barrier. The instructor was extremely smart and a nice enough guy, but he was from Texas by way of downtown china.  He spoke what sounded to my uneducated ear like engrish with a heavy cantonese accent. So he would say something like, "partial furball feud" or "doe sign pennesee" and I'd have to take a minute to translate that to "powershell variable field" and "dollar sign parentheses,"   He would also leave out all the non-essential connective words.  It was strictly subject-verb-object with this guy.  Granted, he spoke english way better than I speak chinese, but it didn't make for the best training experience, even though you kind of got used to it after a while.

I learned quite a bit in spite of myself, but I'm very glad to be home.  Talking about the jet toilet in my 2nd hotel room reminded me of another post I have almost ready to go (so to speak) about the auto-everything trend in bathrooms.  So that will hopefully be showing up here in the next few days.  My boss and his boss are both in town next week, however, so there's no gaurantee.  The way I figure it, I'll either have no time at all to write, or I'll have all kinds of unexpected time going forward.  Wish me luck.

ps - I have a prize worth tens of dollars for the first person to guess what the cantonese-engrish title on this post actually means.