Towelator etiquette

17/01/2011 § 1 Comment

My office has towelators – those seemingly endless looped towels that hang from plastic boxes fixed to the wall of the gents.* I remember seeing adverts for these from back in the sixties, bruiting the towelator as a basic modern necessity, a guarantee that anyone in need of dry hands could always expect a clean, dry piece of fabric on which to dispose of unwanted liquids. The towel, uroborosian wonder, could be wound on to provide endless dryness.

Such is the theory; but it poses a challenge – a game theory counterpart to the seven urinals of Konigsberg. The trouble comes from inconsistency. Firstly, when coming to use the towelator, people do not grab the same spot. Some go for the front nearest the source of fresh towel; others go for the lowest hanging point, where there is the most play in the band. Secondly, there is the question of cranking on. One group will crank forward the towel on their arrival, to ensure something pristine on which to dry themselves; another will crank the towel on afterwards, to dispose of their waste and leave it ready for the next person.

I have seen people arrive at a perfectly dry towelator, crank away all of the exposed towel, dry their hands on the front-most portion, then crank away all of that as well. There is probably a special place reserved in hell for such behaviour; right next to the people who store teaspoons in the same part of the cutlery draw as all the other ones.

Given the above uncertainties, it behoves the citizen to try to avoid poor towelatorship. Let’s examine the situation logically:

1. You do not wish to dry your hands on an already wet towel
2. You would prefer to avoid wasting clean towel

The first of these rules suggest that you should start from the back of the available towel and work forward, looking for a spot on which to dry yourself. If you cannot control for the excessive cranking of others, point two suggests you should never yourself crank onwards, since you risk some profligate coming along and cranking any fresh towel away unused. So, the logic-based approach can be summed up in two axioms – α) look before you dry; and β) never crank unless strictly necessary.

This is still an imperfect solution, however. This requires a lot of conscious attention, and you don’t want to think about this any more than is necessary.** Furthermore, if one is a good citizen, the type who concerns themselves about efficient use of a towelator, it probably stands to reason that one is not the kind of person who likes to leave a towelator where someone might blindly grab at a patch of damp fabric.

It is in such cases of perpetual uncertainty and trepidation, a code of etiquette is the only answer – something which everyone obeys and which others can base their actions around. So please, if you read this, remember the following rules.

1. Crank only if necessary to clear the bottom of the towelator (the most accessible and useful bit)
2. Dry your hands on the bottom of the loop
3. Do not crank afterwards.

If everyone in the world does this, no one need ever worry about damp hands or wasted towel ever again.

(A beverage of their choosing to the man or woman who can make this go viral)

*Or, presumably, ladies.
**Irony noted.


§ One Response to Towelator etiquette

  • Sam Zuppardi says:

    I visited an unfamiliar gents today and found myself unexpectedly confronted with a Towelator. Memories of the system proposed above floated vaguely before me but I could not for the life of me remember the correct etiquette you had outlined – crank first then dry? Dry then crank? crank-dry-crank? And what of the others of the others who had been there before me – to what protocol had they subscribed? I stood there in a frenzied paralysis of indecision before running out of there as fast as I could, hastily wiping my hands on my trousers as I went, and sobbing with frustration.

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