Shevek (shevek) wrote,

It's high time for some travel stories about the international vagaries of lavatory fittings.

Recently, in Birmingham, I stayed in a hotel where the taps were automatic - almost always a semi-functional compromise between engineering and art - but the soap dispensers were manual. When I moved on to the restaurant, I discovered, after some futile gesticulation, that the taps were manually operated, but the soap dispensers were automatic. This utterly defies logic.

So, to raise the grand philosophical question why are they so utterly inconsistent? Clearly there are reasons for each, but the reasons are not universally accepted, nor even enough to swing a clear majority. I still suspect the average British or other wet-climate dweller tends to dry the hands on the trousers, rather than relying on an automated blow-dryer, Dyson's recent efforts notwithstanding.

A recent Panorama episode made the thesis that since dustbins in Britain were removed as a security measure against IRA bombs, the British person now assumes that there are no bins, therefore makes no effort to find one. Might the same become true of certain other automated lavatory fittings? Some of them are automatic and some manual, and it's not always obvious which is which.

Today, at an airport in DC, I was just searching the exposed pipework trying to work out which of the appendages was a flush when the machine insulted my efforts by flushing itself without further intervention. At least this one waited until I had finished, quite unlike the excitement generated by the more the whimsical thrones. The combination of inconsistency and unreliability of user interfaces might rightfully be described a public nuisance.

While living in Canada, I noted that all commercial door handles were identical, but no two taps were the same, and one never knew quite what one was going to get. I think I have now identified the general philosophy of the two dimensional mixer tap, the trick is just to work out which are the two dimensions in which force must be applied.

But the lavatory fitting which foxed me for the longest was definitely at a friend's house in the Netherlands. There was a bowl and a high cistern, and no obvious protruberances whatsoever. After some considerable time and exploration, I discovered that one grasped the downpipe and lifted it firmly into the cistern to cause a flush. Being a private residence, of course there was no notice to this effect, but a hint from the designer would have been appreciated.
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