Who would have thought that public bathrooms can cause your ears to explode? Ok, so maybe it’s just Men’s washrooms that are so dangerous, I’m not really sure on account of I haven’t gone into a “Ladies” on purpose lately. But I have noticed a disturbing trend in most male biffies in restaurants, airports and other public places where nature calls.
I ask you, “What’s the loudest thing in a public restroom?” And before you shout out: “The guy in the stall next to you!” – let me clarify. What is the loudest lavatorial device in the small room? It’s right there, bolted to the wall, looking like an innocent hunk of helpful hygienic equipment when in reality it’s actually a hazardous high-speed, high-volume, highly annoying air blaster known innocently as a “Hand Dryer.”
You know the ones. You dutifully wash your hands like you were taught when you were just a little washroom rookie kid but now you look around and can’t seem to find the paper towel machine. But then you see a metal box on the wall. Dripping hands held vertically in front of you like a surgeon freshly scrubbed for a complicated procedure, you reluctantly head over to the dreaded Hand Dryer, take a deep wince and thrust your sodden mitts into, under or in the approximate vicinity of the high speed vortex machine.
And suddenly – BOOM! Your eyes water, your head spins (literally) and your ears implode. On account of it’s also just like standing next to the mouth of an F-18 jet turbine engine on full take off.
There you are, ostensibly, by definition, innocently drying your hands, when you are in reality being bombarded by deafening decibels. It’s ridiculous really, when a little air can be as loud as a jack hammer. And (for once) I’m not exaggerating. A recent study in Britain found that some hand dryers in public restrooms were in the 80 to 100 decibel range – equivalent to road construction noise, a guitar solo from Metallica or my neighbor’s motorcycle. And being exposed, or this case, vigorously fanned by air jets at a level of 85 decibels on a regular basic is considered to be an official Occupation Health and Safety hazard.
I took myself to a movie the other day as I am wont to do. After attempting to enjoy the unmemorable Hollywood clap trap whilst chomping down three quarters of a humongous bag of popcorn and more to the point, chugging a five gallon pail of Coke, I visited the Gents. And after washing the meathooks I suddenly remembered this is one of those establishments that sports the dreaded dryer machine that is the loudest hand fan in the entire world. It’s appropriately called the “Airblade,” and just so that I won’t get sued, I certainly won’t mention that it’s a “Dyson” – the same company that makes outrageously expensive and ludicrously loud ball-shaped vacuum cleaners that look like a piece of the warp drive engine from the starship Enterprise.
I steeled myself, took a deep breath, and plunged my fingers into the cold dark slot of the machine. In three seconds of violent detonation the thing nearly ripped the flesh from my hands and the one quarter bag of movie popcorn I had tucked under my arm to bring home to the Better Half as I am wont to do after a movie went flying across the room in a snowy blast of kernel confetti.
And it only took that three seconds of earsplitting tinnitus torture to become even more deaf than I already am, and even now I keep trying to answer a phone that’s not ringing. I just have two words for Mr. Dyson: Paper. Towels.
Harley Hay is a writer and filmmaker in Red Deer.