Letter to the editor: On restroom ethics

Wanda Tinasky

Christian Slater once wrote that “[g]ood judgement comes from experience” (brainyquote.com). Given recent events, it is clear that the world could do with a bit more of this Christian thinking. I’m not writing to rehash the national debate over which restroom goes with male and which goes with female (Which? Whichever!) I’m writing instead to convey my strong opposition to the continued trend at OSU to convert push-paddle and lever-action paper towel dispensers to so-called “automatic towel dispensers” in restrooms of both sexes.

Since Junior Hawkins filed Patent #US4796825 A on September 25, 1987 (a day, it should be noted, dear to my heart for very different reasons), patrons of American restrooms have been unwitting participants in a grand experiment in social as well as towel engineering. Whereas conventional dispensers enable users to select a length of paper towel tailored precisely to their bibulous desires, these new instruments of “rotation control” (Google Patents) force the infinite possibilities of that human imagination into 1-3 preassigned configurations: a so-called “short” towel of approximately 8”, a more generous “medium” length of 12”, and a vulgarly named “long towel” of approximately 16”.

The creators of automatic towel dispenser insist that these three configurations “reduc[e] WASTE and lowe[r] operating costs” (Georgia-Pacific website), and the zealotry of ATD advocates might make some sense if they had any serious evidence that unary, binary or tertiary paper towel configurations actually reduce hand towel waste. But they seldom even discuss the issue in terms of empirical evidence. Indeed, we have all experienced a situation in which our halest hand washing calls out for a bolt of towel that falls between the preassigned allotments of the dispenser’s “patented microchip” (SCA Tork Intuition II Roll Dispenser Advertisement), leaving us to either wipe the post-towel excess water from our hands upon our pants like Californians or, like Washingtonians, signal the dispenser for a second helping of towel. Surely we can therefore agree that, to paraphrase the great bard, there are far more and more diverse drying needs on heaven and earth than are dreamt of the Tork Intuition II’s imagination.

I therefore ask this great university to take a stand again the ATD’s scourge of digital dehydration. Please join me.

Wanda Tinasky

Corvallis Resident and University Supporter