Prairie Tayles: I miss buttons, handles, and flushers

Jun 2, 2017

Credit CC0 Public Domain

A nostalgic essay about the good old days when all food was slow and TVs only received two channels recently caught my attention. It made me think about the differences between my childhood and my grandkids’.

The paragraph about not having a remote really struck home. The author explained how adults expected children to trudge to the television to manually switch from one channel to the other. I remember those days when dad would tell us to change channels. I might have been a grown up in my own home before I owned a television with a device that allowed us to flick channels without leaving our seats. That was just the beginning of technology that encouraged dependence. Now it’s expanded into restrooms.

Soon after reading this article, I traveled and, as a result, visited several public bathrooms. Those calls of nature made me realize another cultural shift is taking place. Youngsters growing up today won’t know the time when people using such facilities had to flush their own toilets, turn water on and off at the faucet, and crank their own paper towels. Many stores and rest areas have bathrooms with automatic sensors that do all that for the users. 

As soon as a person rises from the commode, a flush is signaled. The benefit here is that stalls always have freshly flushed stools. The disadvantage is sometimes folks would like more distance before that electric eye sets off this reaction. I guess I’m old-fashioned, but I like being the one to decide when that swirling action begins.

Once users finish their business, it’s time to visit the sink. It doesn’t take long to realize they won’t be either turning a faucet handle or lifting one. In a flash, they notice the distinct lack of handles. Instead, they wave hands under the spigot, and, magically, water sprays over them.

Apparently, soap distributors haven’t jumped on board with automatic dispensers because folks still have to manually press a button to load their palms with foaming cleanser. Unfortunately, while getting suds, hands must move away from the sensing device at the sink, and the flow ends. I’ve discovered it takes a moment to reposition hands correctly to trigger a rinse. That little hesitation always produces a moment of panic. What if the spigot doesn’t go back on and my hands are all lathered up!

To add to this hygiene magic, modern children won’t know about either cranking their own paper towels or pushing the stiff button that forces the roll to spew out a single sheet. They certainly won’t get to use the old-fashioned belt of rotating cotton that I loved pulling out of that metal box  positioned above the sink. Nope, kids will think they wave their hands under a silver flue, and hot air instantly dries them. 

I see advantages to these changes. There is less trash in the bathroom without paper towels. If sensors  work, toilets flush every time they’re used. Despite those benefits, I miss being responsible for activating these devices. If we’ve made changing channels and going the bathroom automatic, what new changes lurk around the corner?