I find it curious how we’re capable of using so much of our creativity and our time to do stuff that don’t have a real purpose behind them. They can be kinda funny, briefly entertaining, they make you go “hen” and faintly smile while you’re browsing through the deep dark road of your timeline, but they don’t actually change your life.
Like Lady Gaga Superbowl memes or Confused-Steve-Harvey gifs. Now, does that have any impact in our lives? Nope. And still, someone spent a decent amount of time in a basement making it, a time that could have been spent in reading a good book, learning how to play ukulele or creating a tutorial on how to clean bathrooms with no drain. How many trees could have been planted in that time, I wonder?! But then I also think that we do need these funny senseless stuff, we do need some gifs stored in our whatsapp chats to help us go through boring sales meetings or -daily – subway delays. Maybe they are not made created for a noble aspiration, but there’s still purpose to their existence.
But then there are a few things that we can try and look at with the best of intentions, but we just can’t find a meaning for why someone ever spent time making them. Some things to which we just have to say: enough, humanity. Stop spending time being re-creating or things that have absolutely no use. Stop redesigning things that are already pretty well designed. Just stop it
Well, ever since I’ve arrived in the US, I’ve been noticing the overwhelming wave of creativity and technology surrounding all things public toilets. From the sign of Men/Women at the door, to state of the art methods of flushing, unthinkable ways of opening up a tap and a wide variety of hand drying solutions. And I can’t help but wonder why have toilets been attracting so much creative capital? And what’s with the design people expressing their deepest inspirations and creative essence in the realm of public toilets? What the hell?
Ok, so let’s look into it and start establishing some ground rules here, because things are beginning to get out of control and someone has to do something about it.
First. The male/female sign at the door. Once and for all people: just write “men” or “women”. Or boys/girls. At the most ladies/gentlemen, because from here we already start going down a rabbit hole, I mean, when was the last time you said “That gentleman over there just stole my spot in the line”, who are we kidding? So please don’t give me sistahs/brothas, pointers/setters, drawing of a broccoli/artichoke. There’s no point in that. We’ve established the rules and they do not need improvement. Everyone gets it and frankly no one wants to be faced with a drawing of a flamingo in the sunset and try and make out if they’re going through the right door. Period. Art directors, please: just type MEN in Times New Roman 36 and let go.
But that’s actually nothing. Because virtually every time you go into a public bathroom, you’ll most likely find a new technology, something that was supposed to be cool, practical and hygienic but that’s actually just stopping you from peeing in peace.
For instance, I believe my American friends will agree with me that we are definitely going through the age of automatic flushing. Sensor flushes popping out like mushrooms. Yep, I got it, great idea. I can actually picture the meeting that took place somewhere in the Silicon Valley, with all those engineers presenting that breakthrough idea to the marketing director. Standing ovation. Tears of joy. I’m pretty sure the sensor flush made someone become a CEO. But in reality, when facing an automatic flush one of the two scenarios will happen: either the flush will be activated 8 times during your 45sec pee, splashing water all over or you’ll gonna have to moonwalk repeatedly in front of the toilet until you finally manage to activate the sensor.
Okey. Let’s just wash our hands and get outta here.
Not so fast.
Because let me tell you, dear friends, that the major focus of innovation, the culmination of engineering creativity of the 21st century does not lye on the self-driving-car. It’s not Google glass. It’s public toilets’ tap systems.
I’ve started counting (doing some serious research to bring you the most accurate data, dear readers) and since last week I’ve seen 17 different tap systems in public toilets around Cambridge.
There’s the sensor, yep, also in the tap, the toilet-designer’s’ sweetheart technology at the moment. There’s the one that you press and then either it starts spilling out water like crazy and there’s no way to stop it and you’re promptly embarrassed on the ridiculous amount of water you’re wasting; or just a very thin stream of water comes out only to activate the sticky properties of the soap and make your hand feel dry and gluey for the rest of the day. There’s the one that you have to pull a pin. There’s the old school that you turn to open. The one activated by foot – most certainly a hit at the 2009 toilet-designer convention.
But the problem isn’t so much that these “technologies” don’t work. It’s more the fact that you never now at first the type of technology you’re facing, so you’re always swaying your hands all over, kinda pressing around the tap, trying some voice control until you end up giving up and leaving. See how serious this is? A matter of hygiene and public health.
So, my dear designers. Lovable engineers. Please stop. Be the voice of change in your community and say: enough! Let’s stop innovating on purposeless things; so much talent is being wasted! Let’s apply it to popularize solar energy to add a search function to the whatsapp chat.
Please, let’s stop wasting our time and let’s use our lives to contribute with something serious, important and urgent in our society.
Take this blog post, for instance.