Wednesday, January 14, 2009

First pull up; then pull down

Things don’t work as they should. I just left the airplane lavatory. In case you haven’t been in one lately, think of the smallest closet in your house, reduce its size by 50%, add the smell of blue substances and a whiff of unflushed bodily discharges under a curving fluorescent-lit ceiling with spots of liquid on the floor. They’re fun places, really. Amidst the amenities – H20+ products for spraying your face, washing your face, moisturizing your skin, and cleaning your hands—are the maxi pads and the plastic cups for drinking water from the little stainless sink. Research shows you shouldn’t actually drink the water from the sink, but the cups are there just in case. The lavatory also has toilet paper, and then it also has those incredibly annoying toilet seat covers.

Does anyone actually use those toilet seat covers? Does anyone actually know how to use those toilet seat covers? Has our restroom design industry gone so far that they produced big sheet metal holes and then some company had to figure out what to manufacture to stuff in those holes. Perhaps it turned out that one company created the toilet seat cover and then nobody ever revisited it.

Universal design. I’ve been at a conference the last several days where one of the most important topics was how to create tools that can be used by anybody: people with physical disabilities, cognitive disabilities, seniors, young people, tall people, short people, fat people, small people. We’re talking about how to make fool-proof transit information kiosks, street crossing signs, vehicles, navigation systems, etc.

Why can’t someone figure out how to apply the principles of universal design to paper toilet seat covers? In our office, we have a big sheet metal flat bin next to the toilet with a cardboard holder that is filled with tissue paper inserts. On the outside of the box, in view of the user, are directions that say “First pull up; then pull down.” I have tried that exercise so many times and failed every time. The results are any of the following:
  • I pull up and the toilet seat cover slips right out so I have no opportunity to pull down with the center flap still intact.
  • I pull up a little bit and then pull down in a big way and the toilet seat cover slips right down with the center flap still intact.
  • I pull up or down and the toilet seat cover slips out torn in half.
  • I pull up or down and five or six toilet seat covers fall out.
  • I pull up or down and the toilet seat cover slips out with the center flap still intact so I try to delicately detach it from the outer “O” but it rips and the flap is attached to one side.
  • I rip the toilet seat cover out and delicately remove the front part of the flap so it is only attached in the back, and place it on the toilet seat and the flap falls into the toilet and gets wet and drags the rest of the toilet seat cover in with it. So I start over.
  • I tear two small pieces of toilet paper and place them on the toilet seat and am complacent.
Having toilet seat covers is like having a ‘hot dog cooker’ or a ‘breadcrust remover ‘ or an ‘electric foot soaker tub.’ It’s having a wasteful amenity that is more cumbersome to use than a microwave, knife, or bathtub.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like toilet seat covers. I use them often. Whenever I am in a restroom that has electric hand dryers, I march right over to the closest toilet stall, kick it open, pull five or six toilet seat covers out of the stall and dry my hands. They’re very absorbent.

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