The covid pandemic taught us many things. During the pandemic there was a large decrease in flu cases across the country. With most people wearing protective masks when being in groups, the spread of …
The covid pandemic taught us many things. During the pandemic there was a large decrease in flu cases across the country. With most people wearing protective masks when being in groups, the spread of influenza was hindered. We also learned that washing your hands proved to be another way to limit the likelihood of contracting viruses.
Every time I came back from shopping or interacting with people during the height of the pandemic, I went straight to a bathroom to wash my hands. I did so in a novel way that somehow entered the zeitgeist of society. It became common usage to sing the “Happy Birthday” song to yourself as you washed your hands with soap and water. In fact, we were told to sing the song twice to ensure the suggested time needed to clean your hands.
In most cases, the washing part was easy. But if you were at a sink outside your abode, drying your hands was problematic. Public bathrooms usually offered only one of the many options to dry your hands. Your choices were limited to some sort of electric hand blower or paper towels. Each choice did the trick but also presented hygiene problems. However, unless you decided to dry your hands by wiping them on your pants or shirt, you had to settle on whatever device was, pardon the expression, “handy.”
In the beginning of the 20th century, engineers began trying to produce an alternative to drying hands with towels or paper. In 1922, the Airdry Corporation of New York received patent number 1,423,800 for a hot air blower that they named the “electric towel.” The company was unable to properly market their invention and faded into obscurity.
An inventor from Chicago, George Clemens, gets most of the credit for the air dryer. His company, World Dryer, produced the hot air blower that was the most popular device for decades.
The problem with the early air dryers was that they were very noisy and took too much time to dry hands. Eventually major manufacturers entered the market. In 1993, Mitsubishi, branching out from their automobile business, dipped their hands in the air dryer business. Their device allowed a user to dip their hands between hot air blowers that blew away the moisture instead of drying your hands. Their “Jet Towel” began showing up in bathrooms in 2005.
Dyson expanded from their line of vacuum cleaners to try to suck up some of the money from the air dryer business. Their “Airblade” hit the market in 2006. Their product, which did not use heated air, was priced at $1,349 per unit.
The air dryer business reached its peak when the Excel Dryer company introduced the “Xlerator” which was able to dry your hands in 15 seconds rather than the minutes of its competitors.
Of course, many businesses do not want to spend a lot of money on hand dryers. Instead, they opt for the less expensive paper towel dispenser. You simply grasp the piece of the towel, remove it from the dispenser and dry your hands. The only problem arises when the trash can has a lid. Then, to dispose of the used paper towel you must figure out how to open the lid without using your clean hands. I usually opt for using my shoe or elbow to pry open the lid.
Years ago, I remember using the bathroom in a swanky restaurant in New York City. It was my first experience seeing a bathroom attendant. Standing near the sink, he served as a human paper towel dispenser. After using the facilities in a stall, I approached the sink to wash my hands. He quickly reached over and turned the water on. He pumped some soap in my hands and reached for a paper towel. As I dried my hands, I saw he had an array of breath mints, cologne and gum that rivaled a convenience store. He saw me notice a large glass jar that held numerous denominations of money. As he held open the trash bin for my used paper towel, he smiled and told me to help myself to a treat. I took a mint and sprayed some English Leather on myself before dropping a few bucks in the tip jar.
Hudson Cooper is a resident of Sullivan County, a writer, comedian and actor.
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