Thursday, May 29, 2014



I love and respect engineers--my brother is one of them--but they seem to come in several flavors: the guys who put men on the moon, and those who are unable to design a public bathroom that makes sense.

Sure, among the populace are a few slobbish souls who walk away with nary a backward flush. So engineers have designed self-flushing toilets that respond without input from the user. I’ve heard them in public places—The Lonely Commodes, toilets in empty stalls, flushing away over and over, flushing themselves hoarse, as though for their own entertainment.

I’ve had nasty encounters with another variety—the Premature Evacuators. They wait until the seat cover is nicely placed, then flush away the cover just as you’re unzipping your pants. Many a time I’ve heard a suspicious noise and whirled around, throwing my palms onto the seat to save the cover. These are the potties that demand you use them without wasting time pulling down your pants.

I’ve met the Nervous Flushers—the ones that sail into action two or three times, just for the hell of it,  before you leave the stall.

Why, we wonder, did engineers decide ninety-nine percent of women couldn’t be trusted?  That we were somehow unwilling to press down the all-important handle?  For one . . . and yes, only one, flush?   

A few engineer-designed sinks are no better. Okay, water is precious and needs to be conserved. We get it. So they give you cold water that runs only when your hands are soaped and under the faucet. (I’m okay with that). But in some bathrooms the sink offers only mini-squirts of warm water, not enough in one squirt to rinse one well-lathered hand, let alone two. For those I’ve had to retreat and advance my fingers seven or eight times, and in the end achieved maybe eight teaspoons of liquid—meaning the rest of the soap had to be wiped away on a paper towel.    

And speaking of towels. Why did so many bathroom designers position the paper towels across the room from the sinks . . . leaving us no recourse but to drip, drip, drip, on the way to drying off? Who, pray tell, mops the slippery gap between sinks and towels?  

Maybe things are different in men’s bathrooms. I’ll never know. But I do have one suggestion—that women engineers design the equipment for women’s bathrooms. Why on earth was this job entrusted to someone who, on most occasions, needs only one downward zip and one grab and he’s good to go?


P.S. I was reminded today that dubious engineering is not confined to bathrooms. Kirkland’s delicious “complete nutrition shake” comes with an attached straw—which is too short for the container. When you poke it into the hole, the straw drops into the liquid and disappears.  You wonder—who thought this was a good idea?

And Emily’s List (whom I love), provides a return envelope which is too small for the material they want sent back. No matter how you fold them, the sheets don’t fit.  

Last, but certainly not least—an article about cell phones declares that if you let them drop too often to zero, soon the battery will be so weak it won’t rouse enough to take a charge. (Mine is practically comatose). On the other hand, phones do best, they say, when charged to only sixty or eighty percent. So I ask . . . what nerd hovers over his charging phone to pull the plug at eighty percent? For that, you’d have to set your alarm for two a.m.

I’d buy a new phone—except I’m waiting for one that holds a charge for . . . how about two whole days?     

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