America’s biggest threat to productivity

On one hand businesses exist to provide goods and services to their customers. On the other hand, with the exception of non-profits, the real goal of a business is to make money. And, hopefully lots of it.

At the 30,000 foot level, which coincidentally is where I’m writing this from (plus or minus a few thousand feet), it’s really straight forward: sell goods or services for more than it costs you to make them. That is profit.

Of course reality (sea level?) is much more complicated. There are a million factors that go into the equation. One said factor is Productivity.

Productivity, put simply, is getting the most output possible from your resources. And, one such resource is the employees themselves.

There are many things that suck productivity from employees: over working them to exhaustion, poor training, and over burdening them with tasks that don’t support the bigger picture goals are just a few.

Others that we’ve all experienced would include sitting in traffic or wasting time in meetings with no clear agenda or purpose – witness every meeting that Cubicle George runs.

Yes, all of the above are productivity sapping exercises. However, I don’t believe any of those are the worst offender. Nope they can’t even hold a candle to what I feel is the worst offender. But, don’t fear I have identified the Pinnacle of Productivity Suck, the PP Suck, hmm that doesn’t sound so good, on second thought how about the PPS…yeah that’s better.

The PPS is none other than – automatic bathroom fixtures.


The concept behind all the automagical bathroom fixtures is brilliant – to keep you from touching anything and getting wicked ugly coworker germs. We’re told time and again that we need to wash up after doing our duty…heehee I said doodie.

Restaurants have signs saying workers must wash before returning to the job. My office reminds us how important washing is to curbing the yearly outbreak of flu (I have a theory that it is of the swine variety, but I have yet to conform that).

I was even taught at a young age that after doing your business if there are only manual fixtures that you should engage the following process:

  1. Pull a sheet of paper towel part way out.
  2. Turn on the faucet.
  3. Get soap and wash thoroughly.
  4. Take towel in part one and shut off water without actually touching the faucet, throw towel away.
  5. Get fresh towel, walk to door and use fresh towel to open the door.
  6. Then finally, but very carefully and simultaneously exit the bathroom while throwing the towel into a receptacle conveniently located by the door all the while trying not to touch the door with anything but your foot.

Holy crap that’s hard to do.

So, along came our savior, the automatic fixture. These things are ingenious! You can do everything you need to do without touching a damn thing. Brilliant!

Or…are they?

While I’m all for the cleanliness aspect of these new fangled devices I find that the reality leaves quite a bit to be desired. Let’s take an example from my office shall we.

At our little slice of cubeopolis they recently installed these modern wonders of technology and from what I’ve witnessed the following is a typical experience.

While men typically only sit down to do #2 I don’t want to be accused of sexism so let’s start by assuming the seated position in a stall.

First things first – the toilet seat paper cover.

No this protector of backside transmitted cooties isn’t automated, however how cool would that be! But, I find that the process of getting them in their intended spot is challenging. I haven’t done some government sponsored, your tax dollars at work study mind you, but I’m pretty convinced that at least half the time when you pull one of those out of the fancy wall holder that doubles as a magazine holder, you end up tearing it and having to go back for a second go at it. Then, you finally get that thing out and you go to put it down – appears to have the full seat covered. OK now, turn around to sit down…FLUSH!

What the???? There it goes down the drain. A victim of the overeager automatic flush toilet.


No pun intended.

OK grab another. This time hold it on the seat while staying close enough to the crapper so as to not trigger the “I stood up automatic flush mechanism”. Phew. Made it. Time to relax and go about my business.

Side note – I can’t help but wonder if some of those auto flushing toilets have an inferiority complex and dream of becoming a bidet some day as they often spontaneously flush giving your tush an unintended splash.

Even toilets dare to dream

Ok flash forward a few minutes – or 15-20 for some – and exit the stall. Off to the sink.

Hands under the soap. Nothing. Hmmm lean over. Now where is that sensor? Ah there it is!

Hands back under the soap dispenser. Squirt
That’s definitely not going to be enough soap. Wiggle hands feverously. Squirt

You mean to tell me I need a metric ruler to figure out the proper “spot” to make this thing work?

Ok now we’re talking. Fully lather like you’re going into surgery.

Hands under the faucet now…nothing. Wave frantically…nothing.

OK, now where is this sensor? Ah there you are you little devil you.

Slowly now…move hands closer…a gusher of spraying water at a volume most fire hydrants would envy. Ricocheting right off your hands and onto your pants.

Double Shit!!

In a natural reaction I jump, and my hands touch the faucet, which unfortunately means that I need to wash my hands yet again! Must not touch anything!

After repeating this process I finally get my hands soaped, washed and rinsed without incident. Time to dry.

One of our bathrooms has no towels, only air dryers – with yet another damn sensor. Looking down at my pants, I can’t help but ponder – Now everyone is going to think I pissed myself and I’ll get the nickname of “drippy” or something like that.

Thank god for synthetic fibers that whisk away moister and dry quickly.

Seeing as I have plenty of time to think while I stand there drying my hands for two cycles of the air dryer and my pants for three, my mind winders…

Hmmm these things are like hair dryers. Just blowing wind. Speaking of blowing wind this place stinks. WAIT! The air from the dryers is the same foul air in the bathroom. Soooo, these things are blowing microscopic pooh particles…hot pooh particles…on my hands? Ugh. Must get outta here!

As I head to the door I realize there are no towels to grab the handle of the door. Guess that doesn’t matter as my hands have hot microscopic pooh particles on them. So, in an effort to flee this joint ASAP I grab the door and run. Straight to my desk and my 1 gallon Costco jug of green hand sanitizer. I use so much of this stuff that I’m pretty sure my hands are in need of a 12 step, Sanitizers Anonymous program.

Squirt. Rub. Rub. Keep rubbing. Repeat.

OK, finally back to work.

But, before that a thought pops into my head (yeah this happens all too frequently) – has anyone touched my phone or keyboard while I was gone?

P.S. – I wonder if Mike Rowe is interested in setting up a Dirty Jobs – Corporate Edition? I’ve even got the one-liner for the episode’s teaser:

“This may not look like a dirty job, but at some point, you’re gonna have to take a leak.”


About CubicleViews

Observations, thoughts & random bitching about cube life, food, beer, wine, whiskey and sometimes politics. Living the dream in a 6×8 doorless polyester walled cell.
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9 Responses to America’s biggest threat to productivity

  1. Carrie says:

    I think all the germ warfare is the cause of Super virus that kick our ass. Go eat some dirt, it’s good for you 😉

    • CubicleViews says:

      One of the key ingredients of dirt is manure…that’s poo. I think I’ve breathed in enough that I don’t need to eat any thankyouverymuch!
      But, your point is valid, given our propensity to de-germify ourselves to no end we are likely going to cause our own demise.
      I need a drink.

  2. I HATE the auto anything bathrooms. I would rather take my chances with the germs than to spend 20 minutes waving at the faucet trying to get water out. And here they put in water saving filters on the faucets, so that you have to spend at least 10 minutes just getting your hands wet (this is not part of the 20 minutes spent trying to get the water to come out.) And there is no way you will not get water everywhere. As soon as the water hits your hand, it spews in all directions. If it was possible I would never use the bathroom at work, but due to a weak bladder and lots of water consumption, I go often, needless to say, I stay damp most of the day, they won’t put the dryers in, just in case we might use them to keep warm in the winter when they won’t turn the thermostat past 68. Another energy saving feature they started. I love my job……

    • CubicleViews says:

      I hear ya there, when someone walks in and you are doing some wacky dance move just to get the auto-anything to do it’s thing is highly embarrassing and I’d do whatever possible to avoid the work toilet too. But, I’m highly addicted to coffee so it’s either the work toilet or the bushes outside. Or I get a diaper.

  3. megan says:

    Love this post. But I had to add, some years ago I was in an international airport in Spain I think, where they had automatic seat covers. Only, it wasn’t an automatic dispenser perse, as much as it was a saran wrapped toilet seat, that after the toilet flushed, the tube of plastic wrap would go on a carousel type ride around into a dark rectangular receptacle located at the back of the seat. And the only thing I could think of was, “is that really new plastic?”
    Negress to say, I hovered.

    • megan says:

      That should be needless to say…

      • CubicleViews says:

        I’m picturing those restaurant style giant boxes of plastic wrap bolted to the wall.

        Related I remember being in Prague way back in the early 90’s and having to pay for a single…literally 1 sheet…of toilet paper if you had to go. I’m pretty sure their currency at the time would have been a cheaper way to wipe.

        P.S. don’t worry about spelling errors…I’m the king of that!

  4. free penny press says:

    Leave it to our bathrooms @ Corporate America they flush before you even get a chance to pull your slacks up..Then as an added bonus there is this automatic air freshener thingy that gives out a few puffs of some horrible Auntie Mame smelling perfume so as not to offend any of the other visitors. (wonder what that gadget costs?)…

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