by Robert Campbell


Of all the questions that can be safely asked in a public restroom, and there aren’t too many, one that never comes up is, “How do you work this electric hand dryer?

Many people would think that this is because anyone with enough sense to wash their own hands could probably figure out a device with ONE BUTTON. But these people would be wrong! The true reason is because responsible companies like Excel Dryer Corporation went to the trouble of printing detailed instructions on the front of the device:

STEP 1: Shake excess water from hands STEP 2: Push button and release STEP 3: Rub hands briskly under nozzle STEP 4: Dryer stops automatically


You’d think Steps One and Two would have been sufficient. No. Excel Dryer Corporation added Step Three, correctly anticipating that they would get angry, ink-smeared letters from people who, after turning on the dryer, stood there dripping on our nation’s clean public-restroom floors, screaming, “Now what?” And I guess Step Four, which isn’t even a step, is for those who worry about unattended hand dryers further contributing to global warming.

Another manufacturer, World Dryer Corporation, even went so far as to have their dryer directions translated into pictographs for those who are intimidated by letters meaningfully arranged in the form of words.

I say, why stop at hand drying? Why not have detailed instructions on applying graffiti, avoiding eye contact, or urinating? From what I’ve seen of public restrooms, there must be millions of people out there who desperately need this information now.

No. This is the dawning of a new day in America. A day of responsibility and self-reckoning to which we are just now awakening, bleary-eyed. And as we soberly prepare to mop up our leaky, out-of-order intellectual infrastructure under the cold, fluorescent light of reality, we should all ask ourselves the hard question: what kind of culture are we engendering through the dumbing down of our national public-restroom resources? It really is a hard question, particularly when asked out loud.

Hopefully, the answer will have some sort of hands-free, motion-detection device attached.