Paper Towels

by Intersectionist

This one is a bit different for me—a writing exercise inspired by the work of my friend Peter Gagnon. It’s also a critique of overblown corporate dignity.

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My day begins earlier than usual as I stare down tight schedules, budgets, and deadlines. After brewing my coffee, I make my way to the restroom—its gleaming, modernist design a silent reminder that even here, we take ourselves seriously. I straighten my tie, check my hair, and wash my hands in the polished granite sink.

Our prestigious consulting firm is at the forefront of technological advancement, so our paper towel dispenser is motion-activated, sparing us the exertion of towel-yanking and the contamination of lever-pulling. I wave my hands in front of the automated panel of cold steel and black plastic, trying to get its attention, begging for permission. It reluctantly complies, and spits out a thin paper towel square, barely enough to dry my large hands. I wave again for another square. My hands still aren’t dry, and I guess I could stand there and wave until it surrendered all its goods, but I’m too hurried, and too proud, to be humbled by the machine once again.

I turn to leave, and as I pass the second dispenser on the left, it senses my proximity and spits out another square. Its characteristic motor-whine echoes off granite and steel, mocking me as the heavy door slowly closes and I walk back to my desk to subdue the earth.