We have come a long way over centuries, nay, millennia of bathroom technology, but it would appear that many of humanity’s advancements in the lavatory trade were overlooked by the rogues who plotted the Hapless Hegeman Bathroom Redesign of 2013. Its shiny, unsullied veneer was certainly alluring in early September, but lo, a mere few hours’ use revealed these new bathrooms to be horrifically botched. Bear with me as I begin my jeremiad by highlighting the most absurd of the many flaws.
Although we live neither in an airport nor a stadium, our restrooms are not equipped with paper towels but with Xlerator Hand Dryers, Model XL-SB, which are guaranteed to dry your hands in 15 seconds. If you count it out, it’s actually an absurdly long amount of time to stand there doing nothing. Plus, since the unit is mounted at 36” (the manufacturer’s recommended height for children and disabled users!) rather than 44” (the recommendation for adult men and women), today’s impulse to bend down and dry your hands will result in tomorrow’s chiropractor bills. But, we are told that what the Xlerator lacks in hominess and convenience, it makes up for in economy of energy and value. Fine, whatever.
So the mad scientists who blindly cobbled together the Hegeman bathrooms also decided to install the Xlerator—which, mind you, boasts a formidable air propulsion of 16,000 linear feet per minute plus a 970-Watt heating element—directly above a wall-mounted garbage unit, thus creating a warm eruption of bathroom-rubbish (paper towels notably absent!) squarely into your freshly washed hands with each doomed trigger of the dryer’s infrared optical sensor. If you are having trouble visualizing this, try blowing a hairdryer directly into a small bowl of cornflakes and milk, so that your breakfast (which, in the case of our Hegeman restroom, is garbage) flies everywhere. Add this to several pre-established concerns about air-dryer hygiene, as concisely expressed on page 3 of this European study, and hand-drying begins to sound pretty unhealthful.
To Brown University’s credit, the volcano has been dormant ever since facilities sent over a crew to violently extract the wall-mounted receptacle and reinstall it a full 22 inches eastward (by drilling into the ceramic tile at 7am, no less). But the woes don’t end there.
Let’s take on the sinks. Little could I have grasped, as a fawnlike Simmons-era freshman, the privilege of an Andrews Hall sink: a faucet with a strong, singular, cohesive stream, operated by two independent knobs, the left one representing hot, the right cold. For those of you who grew up with sinks in your home, what I have just described is likely to sound familiar to you.
But in Hegeman, our two brand-new sinks each possess a single knob, operated by depressing the central apparatus, which can also be rotated to control temperature, except that one of them was installed backwards, so that the cold and hot controls might be reversed depending on which sink you dare to use. The knob on the right sink, once depressed, sprays several weak streams of water for two full seconds before requiring reactivation. To wash your hands even half the CDC-recommended length of time, you must depress the knob five times. If When you fail to rinse your soapy hands in the first burst of two seconds, then you’ll get soap all over the knob, and you’ll continue to get soap all over your hands every time you press the knob to rinse the soap off. And there still aren’t any paper towels to wipe the knob down.
Pull out your stopwatch and observe the phenomenon in the brief documentary below. Washing your hands is just one thing; God help you if you wish to fill a bottle or wash the sink itself. (Has our poor representative from Facilities not suffered enough each Tuesday morning, pounding with increasing fury on the faucet every other second in his impotent effort to rinse disinfectant chemicals out of the basin?)
Last, but certainly no less egregious in our gender-neutral setting, is the lack of a shower antechamber. In order to bathe, Hegeman residents must briefly denude themselves, praying for solitude while slinking, defenseless, behind the curtain. Drying oneself off is no simpler, for you must remain in the shower space and hope not to let your towel drag into the puddle at your feet, nor graze the collection of hairs in the drain, while you scrub your legs dry. Frankly, the lack of a private area outside the shower may not offend me in particular, but I empathize with my poor female neighbor who was stranded in the shower quadrant, unwilling to emerge for her towel until my shaving ritual had run its course and the sanctity of the room was returned to her and her alone.
And perhaps the most harrowing aspect of the redesigned Hegeman restroom: however bad they are now, they must have been worse before this summer’s renovation.