Things that confound me

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Our lives would be perhaps 30% more efficient if we simply stopped doing stupid things.

  • men’s toilets that don’t have urinals

Men are messy pissers, but they make up for it by being relatively quick about it, and for being able to do it in a urinal. Urinals are wonderful inventions because not only do they ensure that the mess left by men is less than it were in a toilet, urinals are also very efficient with water use. It simply doesn’t make any sense to flush 2-4 oz of piss with 1-3 gallons of water.

  • heavy doors that pull to open but don’t have a handle

This one is particularly weird. What happened? Did they just run out of money when it came to installing handles?

  • bathroom doors that have round handles that are slippery when wet

This is just as bad as not installing handles. Round handles are particularly common in the US, and perhaps are a result of some kind of design fashion that was prevalent at a particular time but got stuck there. To put a round hand made of polished metal is a terrible idea in any situation; to put one in a bathroom where your hands are likely to be wet is going to defeat the best of us. Heaven help us if we are old or suffer from arthritis.

  • (mainly European) restaurants that serve drinking water only in 6-8 oz bottles instead of a jug of tap water

Why? Just why? I can understand in countries where tap water is not potable, but in well-off European countries, providing a cup-full of water for €2-4 in a plastic or glass bottle that will just add to the mountain of plastic swirling somewhere in the North Sea, this is just baffling. I am looking at you Poland and Germany. I mean, c’mon, even in France you can now get a carafe of tap water, so get with it.

  • complicated fare structures for public transportation

“In inner rings A to C you will pay one fare for trips shorter than three stops and another fare for trips longer than three stops. Outside rings A-C, you will pay yet another fare. All this is assuming you are traveling outside the peak-travel times of 7 AM-9 AM and 4 PM-7 PM when you will pay an additional supplement over the applicable fare. However, on weekends starting at midnight on Friday and ending at midnight on Sunday, the non-peak weekday fares will apply. Unless you are with one to three children between 3 and 5 years when you will be able to buy a family ticket that will allow you to travel at non-peak weekday fares at anytime for a period of 24 hours starting at 6 AM on the day you bought the ticket. If you travel with a ticket to a zone or during a period when that ticket doesn’t apply then you can buy a supplemental make-up fare that will depend on the number of stops you are traveling. Or you can buy a 2, 3 or 5 days pass but keep in mind that all these fares will require an airport supplement. Oh, and to buy any pass you will need to bring a passport size photograph to the central station between 8 AM and 4 PM along with a utility bill or rental lease that shows your name and address. And, sorry but our fare machines only take coins. We know carrying €10 worth of coins is a pain-in-the-ass but we are trying our best.”

  • numbering system for public transportation lines and modes that make no obvious sense

“We have lines A, B, C and F (no one knows why D and E are missing) or you can jump on line 1 through K32 or you can take a metro bus lines D5-M98 or the circular 101-120, except during the night time between midnight and 5 AM when N90-N110 buses will provide night service. Be careful though to not get on a line that ends in X as that will be an express service and may not stop where you want to get off. Yes, even we don’t know why we didn’t just number all the lines sequentially, and instead chose this goofy numbering system.”

  • signage that leaves huge gaps in understanding public services

You want to get on a train but there are no line maps of stations and any indication of which platform to take in order to go the direction you want to go. You get off a train and don’t know which exit to take in order to catch a connecting bus. Every journey needs four vital pieces of information: which line to take, in which direction, where to get on, and where to get off. Design for the traveler who has traveled 7 hours, has a backpack, is visiting your city for the first time, and doesn’t know your language. With that as the common denominator, you will do alright by everyone.

  • airports that require buses and trains to shuttle people between terminals and between planes and terminal buildings AND airports that require up to 10 or even 15 mins of walking between gates

This is just as vexing as doors without handles. When you have all the chance to create something from scratch, and pretty much can make anything you want, why do you create something that is inherently inefficient?