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Memories and Musings: Hand drying 101

By Gene Gallelli

Washing hands is pretty much a no-brainer: hands plus soap, plus water, plus scrubbing, then something to dry with. We learned the routine as children when mom commanded, “Wash those dirty hands!” Fortunately, the soap, sink, and towel were usually nearby and excuses were not tolerated.

Time marches on and it isn’t long before we’re grown enough to face the challenges of the heretofore mysterious “public restroom,” a euphemism belying its intended purpose.

Imagine the fear and trepidation in a young child’s heart when facing his or her solo venture through the door bearing a stick figure of a man or woman.

The child, when faced with a paper towel dispenser of fast-food-like paper napkins, panics to find that not one, nor two, nor three, but four are needed to almost dry your hands, but stops trying before taking the needed fifth because it would feel like stealing.

Even more traumatic is a youngster’s first encounter with a blow dryer with the swivel head and big, round starter button. (Our screaming daughter had to be rescued from her solo rest-room venture, fearing she had broken the blow dryer because it wouldn’t shut off.) The first time I tried to use a blow dryer, I failed to properly adjust the nozzle and dried everything but my hands.

Soon, technology produced paper-towel dispensers with slot machine levers, electric eyes, and touch buttons that could be depended on to seldom work. Tightwad proprietors had them adjusted to dispense a towel the size of a dollar bill and a ten-minute wait before releasing a second.

Finally—one can only speculate—the industrial complex must have produced too many small jet engines or a vacuum cleaner engine that was devouring carpets, which caught the attention of blow dryer architects and engineers. Soon rows of the SUPER DOOPER JET DRYER appeared in public restrooms.

Placing your hands under this shiny, new device turned the engine on; you had no choice. Then, a torrent of supercharged air thrusts your outstretched palms downward leaving bruises on both knees and your watch on a stranger’s wrist. Surely, if the entire row of these atomic dryers were turned on at the same time, the restroom would be airborne.

By now you’re dreaming of that soft cotton towel that hung on the silver racks next to your porcelain sinks at home.

My parting advice, if you encounter the aforementioned atomic dryer, is to hold on to your children and enjoy the trip.

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