My Ultimate Downfall

When asked if I have something that always trips me up, something that I’m convinced can sense fear, something I will probably never master, my answer would be this: automatic sinks.

I know that they’re nothing new; according to Wikipedia, they first appeared in the 1980s in public bathrooms. I was born in 1994, so these contributions are much older than me, but I just haven’t quite mastered them yet.

I can’t ever seem to find the sensor to get the soap dispenser to work or get the water to start or make more paper towels come out. And my biggest fear is looking like an incompetent idiot in the bathroom, hopping from sink to sink, frantically waving my hand to try to get something to work. I feel for other people when I see them struggling because I’m like, “been there done that, the automation is out to get us.”

One incident that stands out the most was during my senior formal in college. It was at the convention center in the city and the bathrooms had automatic soap dispensers and sinks. Since I was a college senior, I was pleasantly buzzed from drinking the whole night, and I’m not 100% sure if that’s why I struggled so much with the sinks, but it definitely contributed to it.

More recently, I’ve tended to struggle with the automatic sinks at Target, the local casino, and rest stops on the Mass Pike. I always hope I’m the only one in the bathroom or far enough away from people that they don’t notice me struggling.

I understand that automation cuts down on the spreading of germs—and after living through a global pandemic we should be limiting the spread of germs all the time—but sometimes it just seems impossible to get the water to turn on, no matter how much I wave my hand in front of the sensor.

I have a master’s degree—why do I struggle with automatic sinks? (Probably because I went to grad school for communication.)

Does anyone else have this problem or is it just me? How do we overcome the battle with automatic sinks?


  1. I have this problem too. I’ll wave my hands under the faucet waiting for something to happen. If nothing happens, I’ll think it’s a regular sink and reach to turn it on, but then the water shoots out as if it knew I was about to touch it. As for the automated soap, 50% of the time I take my hand away just as it’s spitting out the soap because there was too much of a delay.

    Then there’s everyone else using sinks at breakneck speed and I wonder how.

    Liked by 1 person

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