March 15th, 2000

Freezing Washroom Water

by Ellyn Kerr • in Personal
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hot or cold?

About this matter, the words “pet peeve” do not begin to convey my annoyance.

Imagine one is at a restaurant, enjoying a meal with friends. It would not be uncommon, at some point in the evening, to require the use of the powder room. After one has removed oneself from the table, headed to the appropriate facilities and relieved oneself, it would be expected of each who has even the vaguest sense of hygiene to wash one’s hands.

Pull the lever on the soap dispenser. Scrub palms and backs of hands, perhaps even below the fingernails, if one wishes to be thorough. The next step, of course, is to run a stream of warm to hot water, to remove the suds and render one fit to return to the table. If it is during the winter, or if one has been dining in a zealously air-conditioned room, one might even anticipate the warmth of the rinsing liquid.

So there was I, after a post-snowboarding breakfast-for-dinner meal with three friends in a Massachusetts Howard Johnson’s, using the facilities. Ready to rinse, I stick my hands out below the water stream…

I shriek. This particular Howard Johnson’s must have been feeding their pipelines with snow melt — in the microseconds they were there, my soapy hands knew only increasing levels of pain as I held them below the tap.

Having had experienced this intolerable temperature before at other restaurants, I resorted to a rinsing strategy I devised which is only slightly less painful than the ice rinse: tear off reams of toilet paper, wet paper with the ice water, then wipe hands gingerly. The idea is to maximize soap removal while minimizing water contact.

Now does any of this seem fair when I paid the full $4.95 for my corned beef hash with two eggs over easy? And a further $2.95, even, for dessert? (Speaking of, I would suggest against ordering the “Indian Pudding”. The quaint description of the “local New England recipe” won’t properly prepare you for the tepid, pumpkin pie-filling-like mash that mightn’t seem so unappetizing were it made of pumpkins…)

Note that I had, indeed, turned the “hot” faucet as far as it would go. Note, too, that my command of the French language is not so advanced that I would automatically assume a “C”-denoted faucet to mean “chaud”. No, there wasn’t any hot water running to that sink.

Consider the implications. Assume common facilities for staff and customers. When nary a drop of hot, or even tepid water is made available to clientele wishing to wash their hands, how many employees would one expect to be of such stronger consistitution that they themselves would brave the frigidity?

None of this is intended to single out Howard Johnson’s. The Montreal version on Sherbrooke Street, for instance, in which I’ve never stayed, has at least both façade and lobby that indicate a proper appreciation of customer welfare. No, I’ve discovered this stinginess in establishments diverse, from greasy spoons or roadside service stations, to fairly nice restaurants, complete with real candles on the tables and not an artificial plant in the house.

To chintzily supply only cold water to washroom faucets is such an obvious effront, such a blatant disregard for customer comfort, that it is baffling that restaurateurs who do this ever bothered to go into customer *service*.

As for that New England HoJo’s, I don’t feel guilty for not having left a significant tip. It was hard to pull extra bills out of my wallet, what with the frostbite and all.

Freezing Washroom Water 0.1%
Only a restaurant with absolutely NO water would get 0%


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