July 11, 2008

Hot Air

As a service to proprietors of eating and drinking establishments (whether in Paris or beyond) I offer the following common, but still pertinent, observation: sometimes it’s the little things that impress us (your customers) most. Case in point: this afternoon Joe and I spent a few hours at a café across from the parc des Buttes Chaumont in the 19th arrondissement, and despite certain irritations (smokers taking over an enclosed terrace, less-than-fresh baked goods), there was one thing that redeemed the experience for us.

Joe discovered it first. “This place has the second-best hand dryer in the city. I’d come here just to dry my hands!” After checking out the facilities for myself, I had to agree that the hand dryer in the restroom was quite wonderful. For one thing, it was extremely sensitive to motion, so much so that just washing my hands near it caused it to turn on (I don’t know how many times I’ve frantically waved my dripping wet hands beneath a dryer trying to engage the motion sensor, looking like an idiot in the process). Secondly, this hand dryer was extremely powerful, drying my hands in record time.

We don’t take these things for granted here, as it seems hand dryers are the default in most public restrooms in Paris, yet so few of them work as well as they should. While I’m willing to believe that hand dryers are easier on the environment than paper towels (not sure if this has been proven, but it seems likely), from what I’ve seen of my fellow restroom-goers, the lack of a good drying option seems to discourage hand-washing and/or encourage wiping hands on clothes (neither of which are exactly hygienic).

As for the best hand dryer in the city, that honor belongs to Point WC, a slightly wacky facility located in a shopping mall along the Champs Elysées. The minds behind Point WC aim to provide their customers with an elegant restroom experience, complete with artfully designed and decorated cubicles (the trappings of which are available for sale in the adjacent gift shop). I wasn’t so impressed by the chance to own a piece of the place (candles, designer toilet paper!), nor by their claim of it being the cleanest restroom in the city (for a fee of 1.5 euros, it better be), but their hand dryer (literally) blew me away.

Although I wasn’t aware of its existence previously, the gizmo in question certainly lived up to its pedigree. Known as the Dyson Airblade, this device from the makers of the Dyson vacuum was extremely impressive. I stuck my wet hands into it (think of a piece of bread in a toaster) and as I drew them out again, my hands were completely dry.

Now that the smoking ban has taken effect, I think this new kind of hot air should become a trend in Parisian cafés. I’m not holding my breath.

Point WC 26, avenue des Champs Elysées 75008 Paris Metro: Franklin Roosevelt

2 Responses to “Hot Air”

  1. Glenn Fleishman said:
    • In France, since your power is mostly nuclear generated, hand dryers win hands down. Of course, this assumes that there is some long-term plan of how to deal with the disposal of nuclear waste, which there is not. In which case, killing trees might be preferable, since they can be replanted.

    • In Seattle, a two-store chain, Blue C Sushi (conveyor belt sushi), has Japanese hand dryers which, when you put your hands inside produce gale force winds. Right on! Sounds similar to what you used in the Point WC.

  2. Dyson said:

    The power of the new ones is amazing. Almost knocked me down. I still prefer the old fashioned paper towels. And they are still more environmentally friendly.