Rub, rotate and wait

A bullshit hand-dryer

I’ve lived in the first world my entire life and yet I was 30 years old before I realised that electric hand dryers could actually dry your hands.

I knew intellectually that they must have been capable of the task to some degree given that they were both ubiquitous and expensive, but no matter how much I stood in front of one, I just couldn’t seem to get it to work.

I realise that sentence reflects just as poorly on me as it does on hand dryers, and to be fair I think we can split the blame.

And before you start down the whole “what the f*ck were you doing all those years?” path, you should know that I was standing with my wet hands under the dryer nozzle, vigorously rubbing and turning them (my hands). And yes, I’d turned it on.

But no matter how long I was there, how close my hands were to the nozzle or how much rubbing I was doing, they didn’t seem to get any less wet. In the end I would usually just wash my hands, “dry” them for about fifteen seconds (more as a ritual than anything) and then wipe them on the back of my jeans. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.

Laugh at my ignorance, but I know there are brothers and sisters out there who shared my opinion and would similarly follow a visit to the toilet with some hands-on-jeans-action.

My opinion about dryers changed the night I did a particularly nasty stand-up gig in Barnsley in the North of England. I’d been booed onto stage, which was unusual. Normally and audience will take some time to evolve their hatred of you before the booing starts, but on this night they only needed the 1-2 seconds between when the MC announced me and I started walking to the mic to decide that I was worthy of some northern cheer.

It wasn’t a great gig.

Afterwards I retreated to the bathroom so I could avoid looking at all the people who had just booed me from the safety of the darkness. I went to the toilet, washed my hands and decided to dry them until I could no longer hear the audience outside the bathroom door.

I was there for a long time.

But then a funny thing happened. After almost 2 minutes of standing in front of the hand dryer, ritualistically rubbing and turning my hands – they were dry. To say I was confused was an understatement. “How could my hands be dry?” I thought, “I’ve been standing with them under a dryer, rubbing and turning them. That’s never resulted in dry hands before.”

It turns out that the magic ingredient is just time.

If you want to dry your hands with a traditional (non-Dyson) hand drier, you have to commit to drying them for a period of time which is completely out of whack with the time taken to complete the other activities which you probably went into the bathroom for.

Time to dry

Without being too graphic, a man can probably manage to have a standard wee in 20-30 seconds (that’s a metric, not an imperial piss). Then you’ve got to wash your hands, but unless you’re going into surgery, you can probably take care of that in a similar amount of time. Finally, in order to dry you hands with an electric dryer, you have to stand around rubbing yourself for another 1-2 minutes (depending on the vigour of the airflow).

Very few men (and I suspect women) are that enamoured of public toilets that they want to potentially double the time they spend in them just for the sake of dry hands. Some notable exceptions apply.

Additionally, using such a dryer, your hands just seem to snap from wet to dry. It’s not a gradual transition where you notice progress and are encouraged to keep going. You rub wet hands for 2 minutes and at some point, POOF! They’re dry. Or more likely, you rub wet hands for about a minute and think “fuck this for a game of soldiers, I’m going back to the bar.”

So two big problems:
1) If you want dry hands, you have to hang out in a public toilet for an exponentially longer period of time, enduring the mounting social pressure of a line of men behind you who are asking themselves “why doesn’t he just wipe them on his jeans?”

2) The driers themselves don’t set any expectation of how long it might take to get your hands dry, or give you any indication of progress.

And this is why Dyson Airblades kick the arse of traditional driers. They only take a few seconds, and you can feel the water leaving your hands. Double win. They also have a much better name.

Now while this post isn’t about to solve world hunger or bring peace to the Middle East, it’s leading me to call bullshit on other unsatisfactory, hand-dryer-style solutions we have in place. Solutions which are expensive, don’t work in a reasonable fashion and are ripe for an Airblading.

Hotel wi-fi, I’m starting with you.