Fun With Faucets and Toilets

File this under “things that were just more simple when I was younger.” Take faucets and toilets, for example. Faucets came out of the wall – straight out. You turned the spigot and you had water. No filling up a cistern bucket by bucket from a well. No community water source and hauling buckets of water back home. No hand pump on the kitchen counter. Water was now delivered directly to the inside of the house with just the lightweight turn of a small handle. Everyone was so happy to have running water in the house that it took some years for anyone to get around to creating a water heater so you had hot water coming out of the wall also. Hot water in one faucet and cold in another. If you wanted warm you put a stopper in the sink and combined hot and cold to get warm. Amazing. Then another innovation – have the hot line and the cold line feed into one single faucet. Warm!  Wow, what technology. That was pretty much it until faucets started coming out of the decking in more modern houses, but I lived in a neighborhood of 1930s homes that had wall faucets. Nevertheless, they fed into a single line and did the trick.

Somewhere along the line a bright person figured out that you could get away with having just one handle and a lever, not two separate control knobs. Turn on only one handle or lever, set at just the right angle, and you got the temperature you wanted. Then things started to get really fancy.

Oh, I forgot to talk about toilets. Well, there was a toilet and a handle and your pushed the handle down and there was a “whoosh” and the poopy stuff was gone and new clear water was in the toilet. That didn’t change for a very long time.

It was 1992 for me and my job was transferred to a new building that had the most wondrous faucets – automatic!  Stick your hands under the faucet and the faucet turn itself on. What would they think of next!   We quickly discovered that the faucets would run for 15 seconds and then stop unless  . . . . . unless you stuck a wadded up piece of paper towel against the light sensor. Then, they would run for a minute or so, just about long enough to fill a pot of water for the morning coffee. This was important for the person assigned to make the office coffee. It wasn’t unusual to walk into the bathroom in the morning on the fourth floor where I worked and see three sinks running, wads of paper towel scrunched against the sensors, and glass coffee pots in the sink being filled.

Most of us didn’t realize how accustomed we were to this self-activating feature until we  found ourselves at home, standing with our hands under a faucet, wondering why the water wasn’t turning on.

The office building also had self-flushing toilets. You didn’t need to turn around and flush. I’d never thought about someone not flushing yet, apparently, these “selfies” were created for public places where people not flushing created both esthetic and odiferous difficulties. And, again, most of us found ourselves in the embarrassing position of forgetting this automatic feature wasn’t installed in our homes, leaving the next person to shout, “who didn’t flush?” Then, there was also the interesting challenge for those with darker skin or wearing dark clothes. The darkness seemed to be a challenge to the built in toilet sensors trying to figure out whether someone was “on” or “off” the “throne,” so to speak, and they would begin to flush repeatedly until the stall was vacated. Certain people had quite a bit more difficulty in this arena and, where I worked, if you went into the womens’ restroom and a toilet was flushing repeatedly you were pretty safe in knowing just who was in there.

All of this came to mind last week when I spent several days at a hotel for a training conference and the women’s restroom had a 3-sink circus of automatic water faucets and soap dispensers together with very busy toilets. We were all in dark blue pants and many in dark blue sweaters or jackets and those poor toilets didn’t seem to know “up” from “down” and just flushed their little hearts out. Poor dears. I hope the next group through wore something less challenging.

Once safe from the ever-flush syndrome the hand wash process was an entertaining period of “guess which faucet and soap dispenser will decide to work this time.”  The middle sink was iffy – sometimes it did, sometimes it did not. The right side sink faucet worked fairly well, if you were close enough.  Yet the soap dispenser would make you wait several seconds until dispensing a long stream of soap – long enough in time that until you had used that sink a few times you missed the soap completely because you thought that dispenser wasn’t working and were trying another sink. The lone workhorse of the sinks was the one on the left. The water came on fast and strong and the soap dispenser just kept spurting out little pops of soap with a squeaking sound. Squeak . . . . . . squeak . . . . . . squeak . . . . it didn’t stop until your hands were well away from the sink and on the way to get dried. It was easy to see who had been using that sink – all of us had wet fabric on our left arm from squeaks of soap when we didn’t expect them.

Admittedly, this made using the restroom during our short five minute breaks something amusing. Nevertheless, we would have preferred to just “go potty and wash up” with the entertainment.

Oh, the paper towel dispensers were automatic also. They must have been programmed by someone else. They worked just fine.

Have you ever had a funny experience with these “labor saving devices”?  Do tell!

Every Day Is A Good Day. VJ

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