First off, I am not a big fan of public restrooms, but on occasions, I find that I must frequent them. Enter the Towel Dispenser. Towel dispensers have taken on some evolution over the past several decades and within this blog-about-nothing, I would like to explore this evolution whilst asking for your help in keeping the evolution moving in the right direction.
Rolling White Towel Dispenser (RWTD): This classic gas station towel dispenser emerged sometime around the 60s. This was the era where you could simply walk around the side of the gas station and freely enter with no keys or the need to make a purchase.
Typically this large and bulky machine had a small mirror in the front, was built out of porcelain and wound clean cloth towels to a dirty collection roll. We still see residual RWTD models, yet the cost of having someone replace the rolls, launder them and clean the mirror was the main reason for its demise. The bad news about this dispenser was its mechanical dependency, which usually broke, rendering the beast inoperable. The other issue with the RWTD was that at the end of the clean towel roll, all one could do was dry hands on someone else’s filth. At this point, you simply dried off up using toilet paper, if available, your handkerchief, pants or whatever could be found.
The RWTD received many passive-aggressive physical attacks. It was not common to see broken porcelain, graffiti pertaining to brain-stormming of sexual suggestions/ideas and the mirrors had a half-life of less than a week. People reacted violently to this machine when the towel got twisted or at the end of the roll. The RWTD was a very negative evolutionary step in the history of Towel Dispenserology.
Laden with dependency on labor to replace the cloth towel roll, high costs of using cloth and the propensity to find these machines with tagged with bullet holes (from very frustrated clean-freaks), led evolution to the use of paper and the FFID.
Free-Folding Independent Dispenser (FFID): With the ‘Freedom Movement’ of the 60s, our society was poised for the FFID. People wanted to ‘take back’ the public restroom. They wanted freedom to dry their hands with impunity. They wanted peace, not violence, as was found in the RWTD. The FFID was the answer, and is currently making a huge come-back!
There are many variants of this non-technical machine which is simply a box (like a Kleenex box) that dispenses clean pre-folded paper towels. The cost of this tissue-like-dispenser is extremely low. There are no moving parts. It is an elegantly simple box. The FFIDs came in several capacity variants ranging from a few hundred paper towels to thousands.
This machine gets my high marks as each cloth towel is, theoretically, clean. So long as there is paper in the machine, this little baby requires no electricity, has no moving parts and is 100% reliable.
Even though this little jewel gets high scores for its simplicity, there is a salient temptation to pilfer towels for personal usage, such as checking the oil in one’s car, cleaning car windows or cleaning up doggy poo at home.
Towel User Ratchet Dispenser (TURD): Around the early 1990’s, someone got the “bright” idea that people should be in charge of their own towel destiny and, as a result, came up with this de-humanized, plastic ratchet machine that fed a 4 inch towel to the user through a weight-sensitive cam, which failed almost on every revolution of the paper roll. I believe the idea was to conserve paper. Knowing that this piece of crap would fail to deliver, the machine had a right-hand EMERGENCY knob forcing the user to hope and twist the knob (albeit with wet and slippery fingers) to advance the needed towel. There are many, many disadvantages to this piece of junk:
1) the mechanized EMERGENCY knob forces the user to touch only 1 square inch of a rubber (a pathogen life preserver) when dispensing. Who knows what is living on that one round inch of rubber. (I have found a way around this system by first advancing 2-4 feet of paper PRIOR to the wash, then use said paper to advance another 5-6 feet of paper for job completion and door exit. I also have launched a silent protest to literally waste paper to defeat this monster and its cost effectiveness selling point. Feel free to join in the passive-aggressive protestation),
2) it panders to the right handed people of the world, paying no respect to us lefties. Another blow to our self esteem and diversity,
3) it breaks frequently resulting in the spew of an accordion-like wad of paper that is unusable.
4) It begs for vandalism, breakage and aggression.
The Automated No-touch Dispenser (TAND): Coupled and driven by the technological revolution and the need to apply such technology into the public restroom, the TAND was born!
This one has my vote. The user simply waves wet hands under the towel delivery area and out comes 14” of un-touched-by-human-hands paper towel, solving many of the problems stated above with RWTDs and TURDS.
The downside to the TAND is its electro-mechanization-technological volatility and battery life. When a malfunction happens, the thing is shut-down, off-line big time. From The Towel Dispenser Research Institute of Higher Education, Fellowships and Unity, (TOFU), however, the mean-time to failure is over 45 days, which is admirable! Vandalism statistics on the TAND also support high customer acceptance.
However, there is the temptation is to stand and simply waste paper because it’s fun! I caught myself in this act once and had to laugh when I saw myself in the mirror draped with 9 yards of clean towels! This was clearly something that should not be done, despite the temptation.
Public-Restroom-Users-of-the-World, UNITE, and stand behind the FFID or the TAND by NOT wasting paper. Wasting paper will only force the establishment to move to back to an RWTD or, worse, a TURD. Stand up and be counted. Be recognized as a FFID/TAND user and be a proud American. Limit your vandalism to the RWTD and to the TURD. As we help the evolution of the towel dispenser, your behaviors toward these machines is important.
We need unity, changing the world behind closed doors.