My Personal War With The Xlerator


[Photo credit: Patrick Egan]

There ought to be a law…

What I am about to say might be familiar to some of my readers.  These thoughts and descriptions appeared, in a slightly different form, in my book In The Middle of Somewhere.  It was in the chapter that dealt with public bathrooms on a cross-country road trip in 2013.

But, recent experiences during my very recent stay in New York City has prompted me to take to the keys and renew my war with a certain hand dryer…The Xlerator.

It’s my opinion that this device (which I’m seeing in more and more restrooms) should be monitored by the FDA, OSHA and quite possibly NASA.  In the name of “environmental awareness” i.e., “saving trees”, we are being subjected to a hand dryer that MUST exceed the regulations of decibels emitted by a small device.  The dB’s are easily equal to that of a Boeing 747 as it prepares for takeoff…or a Who concert.

It’s a know fact that the police can give a citation to anyone violating the dB’s in a particular area with a “boom box” or an unmuffled car (or motorcycle).  So, where is the EPA in the men’s room?

While in NYC last week, I happened to use the men’s room in the “Cellar”.  This used to be a space for kitchen supplies and Godiva chocolates.  Now it’s Mens Wear.  More specifically, the underwear section of Mens Wear.  When I left the bar in Rowland’s Restaurant to use the facility, I could hear the roar from as far away as Tommy Hilfiger.  By the time I got to Calvin Klein, it was oppressive.  When I took a left at Jockey, it was deafening.  And I wasn’t even in the men’s room yet!

So, without getting too specific, I emptied my bladder and, feeling the germs of public surfaces (I held onto the escalator to the lower level), I washed my hands.  The only dryer available was the dreaded Xlerator.  I hit the ON button.

The roar and pitch was so great, I forgot my recent nightmares and concentrated on keeping my ears from bleeding.  If that happened, it would present a whole new set of problems.  I would need to go into a stall and get some toilet tissue to stem the blood flow from getting to the collar of my new shirt.  (Besides, that would likely lead to minor hearing loss with damage to the stereocillia in my middle ear.  I would then miss the subtle notes in a Metallica song).

Not to mention the explaining I would have to do to onlookers.

If you happen to come face to face with the Xlerator, I suggest cotton for the ears and finish drying your hands on your Guess jeans.  Good luck if you’re wearing a family heirloom ring.  God help you if you’re wearing a prosthetic finger.  The force of the blast of hot air could launch a small dirigible, peel your finger nail polish past the nail itself and strip the paint off a ’57 Chevy.

If you’re wearing a wedding ring, take it off before taking a whiz…but don’t forget to put it back on when you get back to the bar.  Otherwise, your motives will be suspect.

I only want clean hands, not an experience that might well leave me hairless on the backs of my skinless hands.

Beware Product Development is out there and working on a better and more powerful hand dryer.

God bless you, and good luck.

Travels 9: Climb Every Mountain

[NOTE: I am fully aware that you have come to expect the very best Blogs that your server can buy.  Great pride is taken by me, the author of said Blogs (herein referred to as posts) to deliver the best to you, my dear readers, the observations and comments of weary but determined traveler.  Each post is meant to stand on its own…molded with great care from the clay of the litter ridden roadside.  The posts are like small birds, chirping birds, birds with cute little feathers, that are nurtured and cared by me, the artisan.  Each of these bird-posts are then taken by me, protected in my cupped hand, into a carefully chosen place and released…to fly free, to chirp the chirp of the wild untamed skies…and to seek and find your iPad (or heaven-forbid, a PC) where you can read and savor these reflections of the road.

However, the posts are building up in my right brain at a rate that I can’t maintain.  Therefore, I am breaking with a long-held family tradition going back many generations, of posting one blog per thought.  So, for the first time ever, I am splitting this blog in two.  That’s right.  In two.  Please don’t abandon me like a cheap tart on a side street in Liverpool.

And, please forgive me grandma.


As a regular visitor to public rest rooms, along this journey, I have become something of an authority on hand dryers.  This interest of mine began several years ago when I began to notice (very little escapes my notice when it comes to public rest rooms) that there were fewer and fewer paper towels machines.  I tried my jeans and sleeves, but nothing worked as well as those brown sheets of scratchy paper.  At least they were better than drying ones hands on those cloth towel thingies that fed you a continuous loop of “clean towel material”.  My God, but the people before me must just have finished changing their motor oil!  After about a year I began to realize that it was en ecology thing.  Paper towels meant trees were being cut down.  Even I could appreciate the waste.  Hence, the hot-air blower came into use, and it still in use today…with some refinements.  As I arrived in Montana, it hit me like a bolt out of the blue.  Almost every hand-dryer (which, by the way doesn’t allow you to dry your sweaty face), was manufactured in Berkeley, Illinois.  I had just driven through Illinois.  So, where was the factory?  Where was the museum? Where were the signs that indicated that Berkeley was the Capital of the Hand Dryers?  I felt bad enough being locked out of the National Parks and Forests because of the Federal Shutdown, so the chance to salvage something uniquely interesting and culturally important as the Hand Dryer factory slipped by me.  Not one sign on any exit ramp.

I’m not done yet with the Hand Dryer situation.  There is a new generation of Dryers that is making its encroachment into public rest rooms across the land (I’ve even spotted them in New York City).  I’m talking here about the EXCELERATOR.  This wall-mounted machine should be licensed.  You wash your hand.  You shake them off.  You approach the EXCELERATOR and you elbow the big round button.  The blast of hot air that comes out is enough to blow your wedding ring across the tiled floor.  If you’re peeling from a sunburn, forget it.  I’ve seen grown men get manicured from the blast.  The air in the room must be filled with bits of human skin.  How sanitary is that?  And the noise.  I’ve walked out of some public rest rooms bleeding from the ears.  I can see citations against these devices filed with the FCC, FDA, OSHA, NASA and NIH.

So, if you have to releave yourself and there no tree around, don’t say you weren’t warned.


We had expected to spend tonight, Oct. 2, here in Bozeman, Montana…we didn’t expect to spend tomorrow night here as well.  I like the place, but we were planning on getting to Missoula tonight but our bones told us to stop in Bozeman.  Missoula is where we make the Continental Divide.  We knew our gas mileage was going to drop into the negative numbers as we climbed the grade to the high crest of this part of America.  Years ago, I came through that area.  I remember feeling a little dizzy and my heart was pounding.  But I was only seventeen and healthy.  This time, I was a little wary.  With one foot in the eastern drainage and other in the Pacific drainage…which way would my blood flow?  If I slipped and fell, where would I end up: In New Orleans or somewhere on the Northwest Pacific coast, tossed out of the mouth of the Columbia River and washed along the shore like a Japanese glass net float, or other piece of flotsam or jetsam,  (I never could get the two straight.)

The weather made the decision for us.  At least for my wife.  My Continental dilemma would have to wait.  There was an early winter storm in the mountains ahead of us.  We were told that some roads of the passes may be closed.  My wife didn’t want to take any chances.  As for me, I was controlling a Ford with 4-wheel drive.  And we had an R-Pod behind us.  We could make it for as long as it took for the roads to clear.  I wasn’t worried about a thing (I began reading a history of the Donner Party but never finished it) but hey, what could go wrong?

I’m older now.  I’ll never be challenging the mountains again as I did as a young man.

As Gordon Lightfoot sings: Like brave mountaineers, we weren’t bothered much by time.