So I visit a public bathroom at Detroit Metropolitan Airport (taking care not to adopt too wide a stance because you never know if there's a cop or a Congresscritter in the next stall), and afterwards, I approach the wash basins with a bit of trepidation. That's because I've sized up the row of faucets and noticed they're handsfree models. There are no knobs to turn the water on and off (and presumably pick up whooping cough and pestilence in one fell swoop), which is a perfectly good advantage as long as there is a working sensor that starts the flow for you.
Often, these things don't function at all — and since I am in Detroit, where almost nothing functions from the mayor's office on down (and he hasn't had clean hands in a long, long time), that is the case here. No water springs forth from my chosen spigot no matter how many times or how frantically I wave my hands where the electronic eye can supposedly see them. So I move to the next basin, and after several false stops and starts, I manage to get my fingers moderately moist and start looking for the soap dispenser.
It has no pump or lever. Yes, the soap contraption, too, turns out to contain a sensor and a chip, and at least one of them isn't working. Cursing softly, I again make a lateral move, to the next basin, hoping that the water won't cut off in the meantime, and now I receive the briefest foamy dribble from the second dispenser. It will have to do. The faucet, one position back, sputters a couple of times and requires additional hand motions to avoid a prolonged shutoff, but finally, after a minute, I have cleanish hands and, presumably, carry a reduced risk of spreading the plague throughout the cabin of my homebound jet.
There remains, however, the matter of drying my hands. For a second, I'm afraid I'll find those inverted blowers on the wall, most of which are now outfitted with — yep — a sensor that seldom works. But ah: thankfully, there is a paper-towel apparatus that surely, with one downward swipe of the lever, will —
Forget it. It, too, has a motion sensor. And of course, it's not working. Weary travelers are required to dry their hands on their pants, or, in my case, the decidedly untowelesque lining of my leather jacket.
I ponder if sanitary and sane have the same root, and if so, why these words now seem no longer related. Germophobia is a fairly ridiculous affliction to begin with, but especially if it results in fancy new technologies that work so poorly that they sabotage the very cleanliness they were supposed to promote.
"Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long," Ogden Nash once quipped. He's made a believer out of me.