Dear Annie

Techy toilet troubles

Dear Readers: A recent column talked about someone being grossed out when entering a bathroom stall because the previous occupant failed to flush. I was pretty hard on that previous occupant, assuming they were at fault. Quite a few readers pointed out that this might have been a problem of technology and not inconsideration.

Here are two of the letters that I really enjoyed reading:

Dear Annie: In your May 18 column, “Dismayed in North Carolina” was confronted with an unflushed toilet when entering a stall. Yes, the previous user should have checked, but as one who travels and dines out frequently, I long ago chocked this up to the proliferation of toilets and urinals that flush automatically.

It is rare to encounter a restroom that does not have them, so it’s possible the previous user, the one who “Dismayed” followed, had assumed his toilet would flush automatically when he left and did not bother to check. These automatic flushers have been a blessing, as the situation “Dismayed” encountered had been happening with increasing frequency before their introduction. — A Fan of Automatics

Dear Annie: I just read the letter from “Dismayed in North Carolina” and feel that I have to point out another side of the equation: The gentleman in question may not have been just “disgustingly lazy,” but rather didn’t realize it had not flushed. I might sometimes be guilty of the same offense and not aware of it. We live in a highly automated world. Toilets don’t always come with handles anymore. All the plumbing fixtures in my workplace and most of the public places I “visit” are automated.

I have become so used to the toilets flushing themselves. Sometimes the toilet is automated but still doesn’t flush itself, so I have to do it. And it can be difficult to find the button to push to manually flush. Very often they hide it somewhere on the side of the electronics.

I laugh when I stand in front of the sink and hold out my hands to wash them, waiting for the faucet to turn itself on automatically, and then realize that the plumbing is not automated, so I turn on the faucets by hand. I place my hands under the paper towel dispenser and wait for it to spit out a length of paper and nothing comes out because I did not pull on the exposed piece or press the dispensing button or handle.

Yes, there may be times when someone is just lazy, but it may also be that we are so conditioned by automation that we do not realize our business is still in the bowl when we exit the stall. — Too Conditioned by Automation

Dear Automation Fans and Subjects: You make good points, but there still is no excuse for leaving the stall until the toilet has flushed. If it is automated and won’t flush, there should be a handle or button to flush manually. If there isn’t one, then that company should be called out and forced by public pressure to offer a manual alternative.

Editor’s note: “Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.