Would John Rocker be their poster-boy?
November 13, 2007 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Unlike their antiquated, manually operated predecessors, the toilets can flush at the slightest movement, and emit a high-pitched whine that, to some ears, sounds like a cat being strangled.

News that's fit to print: Childrens' fear of auto-flush toilets. (NYTimes)
posted by ericbop (57 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow, isn't there a dog biting a man somewhere in greater New York or something? Unlike the kids profiled in the story, my six-year-old finds repeatedly waving his hand in front of the infrared sensor to be up there with Christmas morning and snow days.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 11:16 AM on November 13, 2007


My youngest daughter went through about a month period of being deathly afraid of auto-flushing toilets. We even had to assure her when it wasn't auto-flushing that it'd be ok.

On the other hand, maybe it didn't help when I'd scream "Oh my god it's going to suck you into the sewer!!!!" whenever it flushed...
posted by JibberJabber at 11:17 AM on November 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ah, the fond memories I have of that family car trip with my 3yo from DC to Indiana, where every damn toilet on the pennsylvania turnpike is "magic." Dark, evil magic, that can only be stopped by a mini post-it stuck over the sensor.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:17 AM on November 13, 2007


Er, man biting a dog, that is.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 11:17 AM on November 13, 2007


Whoa whoa whoa! There are other children out there afraid of auto-flush toilets? My now-8-year-old has been afraid of them for years. He's still very, very nervous and the first question he has when we go to a new public building is whether they have automatic toilets.

“If it was an emergency, I’d cover his ears,”

Oh how I wish it were that easy. Many is the time I've had to put my finger over the grimy, disgusting sensor.
posted by DU at 11:19 AM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


(That same child was also deathly afraid of falling in. Also, overflows (of either toilet or sink), to the point where if you said the word "clog" to him he would literally run out of the room. So maybe not the best data point in this discussion.)
posted by DU at 11:21 AM on November 13, 2007


I was afraid of regular flush toilets as a preschooler. It wasn't that I thought I'd be sucked in; they were just so freaking loud. I'd have to wash my hands first, run back to the toilet to flush it, and sprint out of the bathroom.

I also had to leave the kitchen whenever Mom put the electric mixer on high, and the Emergency Broadcast System noise still freaks me out a tiny bit.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:22 AM on November 13, 2007


This is actually important news. Why, for god's sake, do automatic flush toilets exist?

The ones we have at work must waste 3-4 times the water from random flushings. Urinal sensors eventually fail to flush at all, and have no button to make them flush manually.

What is the big benefit we get from automatic flushing toilets? I see none (except for the producers of automatic-flushing toilets).
posted by mrgrimm at 11:26 AM on November 13, 2007


Yep, the mini Post-Its save the world once again.
posted by dancinglamb at 11:26 AM on November 13, 2007


Also, it is kinda fun to play the urinal game, where you try to get it to flush as many times as possible during use. If you don't care about wasting all that water.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:27 AM on November 13, 2007


“It’s going to keep their kids from getting sick, not touching handles of the flush valve,” she said.

And that's total bullshit, afaic. The force with which these toilets flush (with no lid) cover everything in the stall with the germs from the toilet bowl. It's basically the equivalent of dunking your head in the toilet.

The big problem here is not the people afraid of automatic-flush toilet, it's the people afraid to touch a flush-valve handle!
posted by mrgrimm at 11:30 AM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


What is the big benefit we get from automatic flushing toilets?

Germ savings, obviously. Though I always flush public toilets with my foot.

What they should really do is take that money and hire some people to clean the damn bathroom once in a while. I mean, seriously.
posted by DU at 11:34 AM on November 13, 2007


And that's total bullshit, afaic

As far as I cnow?

As far as I cleanse?

As far as I crap?
posted by dersins at 11:36 AM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Clearly, the purpose of auto-flush toilets is to ensure that no one attempts to conserve water.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:39 AM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


She pointed out the way the light on the toilets flashed before the flush, like a countdown. It did not help much, she said.
Little children, she noted, like to take their time.
“They sit there and sing their little song,”


Speaking only for myself, of course, I know that if I can't get through at least one verse of "Ace of Spades" before the robot flushes on me, my whole day feels off.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:42 AM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


this picture is great.
posted by delmoi at 11:45 AM on November 13, 2007


As far as I cnow?

As far as I cleanse?

As far as I crap?


As far as I care (maybe?)
posted by delmoi at 11:50 AM on November 13, 2007


this picture is great.

All that picture is missing is Larry Craig and his wide stance!
posted by ericb at 11:51 AM on November 13, 2007


My eight-year-old is pretty scared of these as well, he thinks they are going to blow up.
posted by LarryC at 11:53 AM on November 13, 2007


I was all ready to come in here and question whether this was an elaborate gag by the NYT, but apparently kids today really are pussies. (This is coming from someone who was terrified of escalators for a year or two.)

On another note, a friend used to live in an apartment with a toilet that sounded like a cougar roaring at top volume, and which created enough vacuum to suck your colon right down the tube. If that thing had auto-flushed with someone on it, there would have been lawsuits.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:57 AM on November 13, 2007


“It’s going to keep their kids from getting sick, not touching handles of the flush valve,” she said.

Riiight. If everyone would wash their damn hands, there wouldn't be a problem. And you don't need a "sensor cover." What a waste of money. An adult can place their hand over the sensor while their child goes.

Ridiculous article.
posted by agregoli at 12:04 PM on November 13, 2007


Does anyone in the universe actually touch the flush handles with their hands?
posted by brain_drain at 12:09 PM on November 13, 2007


Yes. Me. Why wouldn't you? You wash your hands afterwards and there is no issue. Do you not touch the door of the stall on the way out too? Or the door of the bathroom? Are there people who do all of that with their foot?

(I use the bottom part of my shirt to open the bathroom door, and the paper towel to turn off the faucet).
posted by agregoli at 12:19 PM on November 13, 2007


What a great example of the Onionization of mainstream media.
posted by Laotic at 12:24 PM on November 13, 2007


Don't fear the reaper giant white sucking machine.

It takes away the pain.
posted by four panels at 12:26 PM on November 13, 2007


And then, after using my foot to flush the toilet, I vigorously wash my hands and get confronted by...a sopping wet metal door handle.

NOT GERMAPHOBIST
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:27 PM on November 13, 2007


See, I guess this is a good reason why I never had kids. It never even occurred to me that this is something that a child might be afraid of. And I am exactly the kind of sick bastard that would totally capitalize on this kind of fear:

Little Billy:
I'm afraid, I don't wanna get sucked into the sewer...

quin: Oh, don't be silly. You can't get sucked into the sewer, look at the hole, you are far to big to be pulled through that... unless...

Lil' Bill: [spooked] Unless what?...

quin: Well, it's not likely, but there is a remote possiblity that a sewer-spawn could smell your tender young flesh through the pipes, they feast on the blood of children you know, anyhow, if one was hungry enough, it could force it's way up through the toilet, tear you limb from limb and drag you back to it's lair, where it would slowly eat you over the next couple of weeks.

Billy: ...why do they eat children?

quin: Oh, that's easy. You can't run as fast as I can. Anyhow, finish up and make sure you wash your hands, sewer-spawn love dirty hands.
posted by quin at 12:29 PM on November 13, 2007 [3 favorites]


afic = As far as I'm concerned. I think.

The big problem here is not the people afraid of automatic-flush toilet, it's the people afraid to touch a flush-valve handle!

Bingo. I mean, you could probably activate it with your foot or something, and either way, you should be washing your hands afterwards so it's not like it matters.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 12:29 PM on November 13, 2007


It's simpler to carry a box of disposable rubber gloves everywhere I go. And I always remember to use a new bar of soap every time I wash my hands, and flick the light switch an odd number of times.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:29 PM on November 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


Who the hell doesn't kick the toilet handle to flush it?

I hate automagic bathroom fixtures. Hate hate hate. I wind up spending twice as long in a stinky little cube doing the thricedamned hokey-pokey in front of it to make it flush once I've used it.

And then sinks do not turn on for me. They don't. I do not exist, to a sink.
posted by cmyk at 12:30 PM on November 13, 2007


I vigorously wash my hands and get confronted by...a sopping wet metal door handle.

That's what elbows are for -- press down on the door handle with your right elbow, push with your right hip -- and you're okay.
posted by ericb at 12:35 PM on November 13, 2007


Oh -- and who else hates to press the touchscreen on the ATM? Ewww. I use my pinky and wipe it on my pants before I can get to a sink to wash my hands.
posted by ericb at 12:37 PM on November 13, 2007


And let's no talk about 'pee mints' and 'fast food restaurant ice.'
posted by ericb at 12:39 PM on November 13, 2007


*not*
posted by ericb at 12:40 PM on November 13, 2007


My 6 y.o. daughter has held it till we got home, and/or peed on the floor, and/or had a gargantuan hissy fit (and then held it -- amazing) to avoid these things. Finally the post-it solution has made its way into our strategies for outings, thank God.

Of course she vomits automatically whenever she sees someone else's leftover poop, so perhaps they are a blessing in disguise.

And don't even show her or SAY THE WORD boogers unless you want your front decorated with chewed up mac-cheese.
posted by jfwlucy at 12:42 PM on November 13, 2007


Why, for god's sake, do automatic flush toilets exist?

We're working towards the important goal of rendering ratemypoo dot com fully and permanently unsustainable.
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:52 PM on November 13, 2007


Well I'm not a little girl anymore, but autoflush is something I fear and loathe. I believe that they were invented by men who assume that people wipe from the front. Without fail, as soon as I turn around to wipe in the hygenic direction, the high-velocity flush goes off. Pissy-wet ass, and pissy wet attitude. Damn them.
posted by jimmietown softgirl at 1:21 PM on November 13, 2007


What we need, clearly, are voice command toilets.
posted by delmoi at 1:24 PM on November 13, 2007


Just the other day, my five year old had an accident because she was terrified of the automatic flush. I'm insanely relieved to know she's not the only one.

When she was little, I used to get around them by holding my hand over the sensor. Then they'd flush just as I was bending over to help her pull up her pants and I'd get a lovely mist of piss water in the face.

God, I hate those fucking things.
posted by jrossi4r at 2:03 PM on November 13, 2007


I believe that they were invented by men who assume that people wipe from the front. Without fail, as soon as I turn around to wipe in the hygenic direction, the high-velocity flush goes off.

I'm so confused trying to picture this. Turning around? Wiping from front to back IS the hygenic way to do it.

Not to say I don't also loathe automatic flush - I do indeed. They waste water and make the people nervous.
posted by agregoli at 2:05 PM on November 13, 2007


I thought the whole point of automatic flushing, etc was not so much to protect users from germs, as to make cleaning and maintenance easier. It's one less thing for people to get all mucky, and thus one less thing for janitors to do... and perhaps more justification for not cleaning bathrooms as often.

Or it's one less thing for people to break by kicking.
posted by rouftop at 2:39 PM on November 13, 2007


Does anyone in the universe actually touch the flush handles with their hands?

Yeah. You realize that since there are no lids on those toilet seats, and even if there were, not everyone would close them, that the whole damn place is covered in urine particles.

AND THIS WON'T KILL YOU. GET OVER IT.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:51 PM on November 13, 2007


If your not using your foot to flush, or hover technique...yikes. My sons first public restroom flush was with his foot. Auto flush was a novelty. Usually they want to shit or piss so bad they don't care about the 'sound' He's 12 now, can put the toilet seat up and lock the door with his foot. Airport restrooms are all 'foot method'. Afraid of the sound of an auto toilet flushing huh? wow.
posted by greenskpr at 3:00 PM on November 13, 2007


Two rest stops later, it became clear that all the toilets were the same, and the situation became urgent.

This is what thick bushes or woods on the side of the road are for. That's what we used in emergencies, anyway...
posted by frobozz at 3:15 PM on November 13, 2007


Environmentalists have targeted fur users long enough. Next target should be germaphobists and the whole wasteful industry feeding their fears and producing abominations like autoflush toilets. There will be poo-flinging and hissy fits, just beware.
posted by Free word order! at 4:01 PM on November 13, 2007


If your not using your foot to flush, or hover technique...yikes.

Okay...you realize the piss all over the seat is because of people using the hover technique so they won't sit on the pissy seats, right? You're causing your own problem here.

Frankly, I'm of the opinion that the paper seat covers exist only to cover the sensors on the stupid auto-flush toilets to prevent a repeat of the very unfortunate incident at the Denver Airport that transpired when I tried to get a toddler to use an automatic toilet.
posted by padraigin at 4:51 PM on November 13, 2007


...hover lightly, done properly there's no fallout.
posted by greenskpr at 5:06 PM on November 13, 2007


How, exactly, do you think the pee gets on the seat?
posted by padraigin at 6:46 PM on November 13, 2007


How, exactly, do you think the pee gets on the seat?
...I've never had to use a women's restroom so I don't know, pretty bad huh? Men pretty much pee on everything sooner or later in theirs...the pigs. Hover-style for most men is only for a deuce.
posted by greenskpr at 7:58 PM on November 13, 2007


I don't understand this flush with your foot idea: you're still in the cubicle when it flushes, so your whole body is still getting covered in a micromist of sewage particles, AND you're being a pathetic germaphobe, whereby (if you ever have any success at it) you're giving yourself a weak immune system and increasing your child's chances of getting asthma, allergies, etc. Where's the benefit?
posted by jacalata at 9:56 PM on November 13, 2007


I've flushed public toilets that sound like 747s when everything goes down the drain, but I'm more bothered by what's being spewed out: Does flushing the toilet cause dirty water to be spewed around the bathroom? [via The Straight Dope]:
In 1975 Professor Gerba published a scientific article describing the little-known phenomenon of bacterial and viral aerosols due to toilet flushing. The more you learn about it, the scarier it sounds.

According to Gerba, close-up photos of the germy ejecta look like "Baghdad at night during a U.S. air attack." The article ominously depicts a "floor plan of experimental bathroom with location of gauze pads for viral fallout experiments." A lot of virus fell on those gauze pads, Gerba found, and a lot of bacteria too. In fact, significant quantities of microbes floated around the bathroom for at least two hours after each flush.
At least at home you can close the lid before flushing. And thanks to modern remote control technology, you don't even have to be there when it happens — Never Touch to Flush Again!
posted by cenoxo at 10:29 PM on November 13, 2007


Man. Once, at about 6AM in Newark's horrible airport, I was faced with using a stall - something I avoid at all costs. As I was carefully affixing a second toilet seat cover, the autoflush went off, spraying my lips with toilet water!
I forgot all about the duties at hand, ran to the sinks, and had to try two different auto faucets before I could get one to work. Then I spent the next five minutes washing my face and lips.
posted by ghastlyfop at 4:30 AM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


So yes, these kids are right to be scared.
posted by ghastlyfop at 4:31 AM on November 14, 2007


You flush the toilet with your foot and open the door with your elbows?!

Are you all out of your minds?!
posted by Geezum Crowe at 8:13 AM on November 14, 2007


What I don't get, is there are these people who are professional designers, right? And since that's their chosen career, they must be, like, design geniuses compared to an average joe, right? So, why the hell don't things work? Haven't they heard of end user surveys, focus groups, or, I dunno, alpha and beta testing? We're not talking rocket science here, we're talking about a tiny little light sensing diode and 15 cents worth of associated circuitry and plastic. AND, not one end user in this discussion has even spoken in favor of this design change in the first place.

Lemme guess, yet another case of asinine corporations trying to save a buck, right? Isn't the Invisible Hand of Capitalism supposed to make life better in all things, even these mundane simple things?
posted by Skwirl at 10:54 AM on November 14, 2007


You flush the toilet with your foot and open the door with your elbows?! Are you all out of your minds?!

I was wondering that too. All that extra time wasted in the bathroom, maneuvering your foot or your elbow or your ass into the right position, is only more time spent in a closed-in room filled with other people's germs. Do what you gotta do, wash your hands thoroughly in hot water, and get out as quickly as possible. Quit screwing around in there. You're just making it worse.

But, yeah, those auto flush things kinda suck.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 2:26 PM on November 14, 2007


Jesus Christ, people, getting tiny bits of urine on your hands IS NOT A BIG DEAL.

Just FUCKING WASH YOUR HANDS.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:54 PM on November 16, 2007


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