Last week, The Washington Post published an article about the male benefits of staying at work until you’re 90. And so I read it thinking of a speaker I heard at CES last year, which was about mobile devices in the workplace. He argued that our machines would be obsolete by 2020. The simple reason: because people will no longer be interested in washing, disinfecting, priming, and drying them. He was right, but he missed a fundamental fact: Mobile devices will be obsolete not because we’ll no longer be interested in cleaning them, but because we’ll no longer want to spend time doing it.
I wasn’t going to push the point too much, but that evening, one of my friends, also a long-term home cleaning professional, was scrolling through Instagram and saw a picture of an attractive woman who’d been washing a dish in a portable hand dryer. She was entranced, and called. Then she asked me to fly out to Florida with her in a few days, so she could practice doing it with her hand dryer for the first time. We staked out the local Best Buy, bought a handheld dryer, a little more powerful than the ones in the office at the dry cleaners. When I finally showed up, the store was wrapped in tarp, and most of the customers — elderly people (and their dogs) who’d never even seen a dryer like this before — had already settled in for what became, with the help of a women friend, several hours of learning how to get clean with a hand dryer.
Even if the technology were to get even more affordable, it would still take a decade to perfect the art of hand dryers. But the $80 American brands with names like Spic and Span, Method, Teads, and Clean Out Air actually care about how your hands feel and how easy the cleaning sounds. The Guardian called it “mind-blowing” in a recent story about the invention of these machines, saying they were (in the words of a man who helped develop one) “forgoing the tongue-in-cheek, sex-less simplicity that characterizes current household dryers.”
Paying someone to wash an entire dishwasher is weird, and it feels cheap to me, especially when I remember that this technology is necessary because the rotators inside the dishwasher are incapable of drying more than a tray. But paying someone to wash our hands, at least for a good few minutes, feels weird and cheap. And it’s such a small thing that the reason it sucks is not something I can even come up with. Yet? Yet.