Vail Valley Voices: The hand-drying dilemma |

Vail Valley Voices: The hand-drying dilemma

Linda Stamper Boyne
Vail, CO, Colorado

I was at my favorite coffee spot recently and had occasion to use their “ladies room.” (I add the quotation marks because it’s actually a unisex bathroom, something to which I take personal exception, but that’s another topic altogether.)

After washing my hands, I noticed there was a brand new paper towel dispenser.

It was one of those fabulous, new-fangled, motion sensor kind, the ones that the gramophone in me loves. So I moved my hand in front of it, doing that little wave that says, “Helloooo! Give me some towel here!” And out comes a length of paper towel. Genius invention!

I tore it off and began drying my hands, only to discover that it wasn’t quite enough to do the job thoroughly. So then I faced a dilemma. Do I give another wave to the dispenser to get more so I can dry my hands sufficiently, but in the process throw my green sense in the trash and defeat the environmentally-sound purpose of the allocation system? Or do I allow the excess water to evaporate, thereby taking the moisture out of my skin as well as off it, but conserving natural resources in the process?

I stood dripping, wrestling with the issue. I’m not proud of my final decision that day, but a girl needs to be dry. It raised a larger question, though.

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Who decided what the proper amount of paper toweling is? I mean, really, whose hands were used as the test subject? A child? Someone with freakishly small hands? I don’t think I have abnormally large hands, so it makes me think that perhaps my standard of dryness is just higher. Or maybe there’s a pre-towel dripping-wringing-flicking procedure I’m unaware of.

I brought up the fact that I wasn’t all that crazy about the new dispenser to the crew behind the espresso machine and I apparently wasn’t the first to comment on it. Somehow from this point, the conversation moved to the evolution of public restroom hand-drying methods, their pros and cons and which truly was the most superior. (I know! I’m blown away by some of the intellectual exchanges I partake in, too!)

It was agreed that the motion sensor was a great idea, as long as one gets enough towel to take care of business. Some people, however, feel a little silly activating the sensor and end up touching it, which kind of defeats its sanitary purpose, but I guess there’s a learning curve.

It was also generally agreed that the old-school hot air dryers are the worst. The worst! Hate those things! It takes forever. Some of them blow so strongly, they take a layer of skin off your hands with the moisture. Can’t stand the noise and how they heat up the entire restroom with hot air. And I’m always suspect of what else is being spewed onto my hands in that hot air.

And then there are all the other paper dispensers. Like the perforated pop-out towel that makes you stand and wait for a second piece. Then there’s the kind you have to manually wind to get out. I cannot stand those. The dispenser with the stack of folded paper towel is a pretty good method, unless you pull wrong and whole wad comes flying out.

Does anyone else remember the giant roll of cloth towel hanging down that you’d yank on to get fresh towel and the used part would roll up behind? I was always a little suspicious of those things that perhaps the used section was just recycled as new somewhere up within the massive dispenser. And then there were those times you couldn’t get anymore “fresh” towel and had to try to find an unused section on what was hanging out, or forgo drying completely.

My personal favorite is in the finer restrooms, the little cotton towels, usually rolled up all pretty in a basket on the counter. It makes me feel fancy, and sometimes I just need to feel fancy.

I realize a discussion of hand-drying methods may seem inconsequential, but don’t you get mad when there’s nothing there all to dry your hands with? Makes you appreciate the little things.

Linda Stamper Boyne of Edwards writes weekly for the Vail Daily. She can be contacted through

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