Barbershopera's Rob Castell On The Hand Dryers Of EdinburghDate: 21 August 2010
The best hand dryers are those that enable the user to dry his or her hands in the quickest amount of time, this much goes without saying. The ideal process should also involve the least amount of fuss, unlike with the cumbersome ‘roller towel cabinets’ which almost always require the user to make contact with a damp section of towel used by the previous person. This can be frustrating and time-wasting because the hand washer of a really hygienic mindset will feel moved to rewash the hands before placing them against a truly pure section of towel. The bathroom behind our venue in the Pleasance Dome gives the user a choice of either single paper hand towels from a wall-mounted cabinet or a wildly inefficient electric hand dryer – infuriating to the highest degree and the kind of experience which gave rise to the ‘Gentlebreeze’ element of Barbershopera: Apocalypse No! The element of choice is in some ways reassuring, although when both options are dissatisfying in equal measure it ends up becoming like Louis de Bernieres’ allusion to the paradox of Buridan’s ass: an equal choice yields no decision.
It might surprise the reader to learn that the Dyson will not be lauded as the deity of dryers in the experienced view of this blogger. Of course it has revolutionised how we dry our hands, but such a leap was to be expected given mankind’s constant quest for perfection. The yellow lining is aesthetically pleasing, but somehow the Dyson also reminds one slightly of the baby-changing platforms available in airport bathrooms. Mainly, the Dyson requires rather a specific and not entirely natural posture from the user and only works if the user is prepared to pull the hands up in a vaguely ‘Bob Fosse’ manner. This won’t trouble many at the Edinburgh festival, for whom complicated and co-ordinated moves are an obvious part of any performance, but we have to think beyond Edinburgh, as we do with initial drafts of new theatrical works showcased here.
The hand dryer in the downstairs bathroom of Vittoria on George IV Bridge is unique, a fairly unnecessary but intriguing development of the Dyson idea. One is required to move the hands in a similar way, but rather than pull through an air blade, the user is subjected to what feels like hundreds of tiny air jets, the aquatic version of which one might find in a Jacuzzi. The experience is slower but somehow magical and the subsequent tingle remains all the way back to the table.
The Xlerator however wins hands down – every pun intended. The old-fashioned natural position of ‘here are my hands’ can be maintained whilst the single assertive tunnel of hot tantalising air plunges towards the skin leaving a momentarily terrifying ripple. Fast, effective, ruthless. The future is safe in the Xlerator’s... air streams.
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