As it puffed tepid air on my dripping hands I noticed a tiny manufacturer’s plaque mounted on the hand-dryer. It proclaimed:
“This hand-dryer is helping to save trees which would have been cut-down to produce paper towels. This hand-dryer does not harm the environment.”
The point was pressed home by a little feel-good picture of a tree.
I placed my hands on the wall either side of the pompous little machine. I was the school bully cornering the lunch-money kid behind the bike shed.
‘No, hand-dryer, no.’ I shook my head. The hand-dryer fell silent. ‘I like you and all that, but don’t you believe that little goody-two-shoes plaque. They just wrote that to make you feel good about being a hand-dryer.
‘Look, all you do is shift the environmental problem further along the industrial process. You use electricity, right? And your electricity has to be generated somehow, yes? It probably involves burning fossil fuels, if not nuclear fuel. Can your little plaque tell me how that is not harming the environment?’
I began to pace up and down the bogs*, confident in the righteousness of my words.
‘You think you’re so “Hey, just watch me save the world!” Rubbish! … You’re no better than a Humvee!
‘The only way I’d believe that you’re really more environmentally-friendly than a paper towel would be if your electricity was from a renewable source. Like a wind farm, say. And that’s all you produce yourself: wind. But hardly enough wind to actually dry my hands. I only use you out of politeness. I’d dry my hands better holding them out the window for three seconds.’
I strode up to the window, resolved to prove my point. I fumbled a moment with the window catch, realising to my despair that it, like most fixings in the school, was caked with thick layers of paint, set like concrete.
Walking back to the hand-dryer I lifted a fire-extinguisher clear of its housing and felt the weight in my palm like a baton.
‘You think you’ve won, hand-dryer, don’t you?’
If I wanted you to sleep soundly I’d tell some lie such as ‘at that moment the caretaker entered and relieved me of the heavy, baton-like fire extinguisher’, or ‘as I approached the doomed hand-dryer, I realised it was foolish and insane to destroy a machine on a point of principle,’ and so on. However, I think your right to the truth is more important than your right to a happy ending.
We now have one of those pull-down roller towels. But that, dear reader, will be another story.
*British slang for bathroom/washroom etc. This is an American-friendly website.