Nobody Asked Me But: Ferries’ one sheet of one ply doesn’t get job done

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Dear Mr. CEO of the B.C. Ferry Corporation,

Far be it from me to tell an important and powerful executive like you how to run your empire. I know you are responsible for the maintenance and operation of dozens of passenger ferries, as well as the employment and supervision of thousands of ferry workers. You are the one who calls the shots that allow tens of thousands of passengers like me and our vehicles to travel back and forth through much of coastal British Columbia (even during these days of our Covid-19 circuit breaker).

In light of all the important duties that fall under your watchful eye, I’m afraid that I have to inform you that all is not right in the washrooms of your ferry fleet. Specifically, I have found gross design problems in the placement and operating mechanics of the toilet paper dispensers.

Let’s first take a look at the position in which these dispensers are affixed to the wall beside the toilet seat. In many cases, the plastic toilet paper casing is so low that, if you are standing, it is nearly impossible to reach down to grab some paper should you need some. (The same genius who designed the placement of these dispensers would probably have fastened them to the ceiling to accommodate those who prefer to sit.) Even when sitting, you have to bend double to find the end of the roll, if indeed you are lucky enough to do so.

Another problem with the dispensers is that the opening from where the paper is supposed to roll down is on the bottom, often inches from the floor. Frequently, even when the paper does tear off cleanly, static electricity causes the last few sheets of paper attached to the roll to cling to the rest of the roll so that there is nothing to grab hold of. You pretty much have to be a contortionist and get down on your hands and knees to be able twist your hand up into the dispenser in order to wrestle with and grasp the loose end of the paper roll. Besides being awkward and time consuming, this act lacks the very basics of sanitation.

Then again, there are usually two rolls of paper in the dispenser at the same time and a sliding door which is supposed to allow you to switch from an empty roll of toilet paper to the full one. God help you if you should ever be in need of a wipe when it’s time to switch rolls. First of all, for some obscure reason, they have tinted the plastic window of the dispenser so that you can’t see what you are doing when trying to make the switch. After several attempts at pushing the sliding door over to the other side, you discover that the only thing you have accomplished is to have severely pinched most of the fingers on one hand. It quickly becomes clear to you that you need an engineering degree if you ever want to see that second roll in operation.

And if you thought the toilet paper dispensers were the only problem, you should take look at the rolls themselves. Many of these suckers are the size of the turbines installed in the Revelstoke Hydro Dam. Imagine the inertia that must be overcome just to get the damn things rolling. Some of the diesel power that is supposed to propel the ferry forward should actually be diverted from the engine room just to help start the toilet paper rolls moving.

It’s not just the size of the rolls, but the fact that the one-ply paper itself is probably only one molecule thick. It’s impossible to know how many sheets there are on each of the humongous rolls as no one has ever lived long enough to count them all. Because the paper is so thin and the rolls are so gigantic and difficult to move, you are lucky if you end up with one whole single sheet of toilet paper that has torn away from the rest of the roll. Exactly what can you do with one sheet of one-ply toilet paper?

If you’re not lucky, and this is much more likely, you will get little shreds and flakes of toilet paper tearing away from the roll and falling confetti-like to the washroom floor. The water that drips off your hands as you move from the sink to the paper towel dispenser soaks this layer of confetti on the floor and eventually allows this toilet paper flotsam to stick to your shoes as you depart the washroom. As you pass other passengers on your way back to your vehicle, you can’t help but notice that they too have bits of toilet paper stuck to their shoes. It’s a bit of a bonding exercise as you wink at each other as if to say, “been to the loo, eh?” 

I realize that this rant must be taking up too much of your valuable time, Mr. CEO, but I would like to mention one other issue of concern regarding ferry washrooms. I know of at least two of these rooms that have part of their original coat hooks either broken off or the hooks are missing completely from the place on the toilet stall door where they were once screwed on tightly. These are not recent occurrences, because the lack of repair or replacement of these hooks has gone on for months and even years. I realize that seasoned ferry riders should be expected to “suck it up” and use the facilities while fully clothed, but heavy outerwear can make toilet use quite cumbersome, especially during the rainy, winter season.

I must admit that I have been tempted many times to just go to the nearest hardware store and purchase several of these coat hooks, which I would then smuggle aboard the offending ferries. With these in hand, along with a screwdriver and a palm full of screws, I would stealthily replace the broken or missing hooks (remembering to flush the toilet several times during this covert operation so nobody outside the door suspects my nefarious activity). The only reason I haven’t followed through on these intentions is that I know that if I were caught in the act of this subversive repair operation, I would probably be keel-hauled and then forced to walk the plank.

Nobody asked me, but wouldn’t it be more economical and less wasteful if we didn’t have to use thin toilet paper one sheet at a time and most of it didn’t end up stuck to our shoes? Wouldn’t passengers be in and out of the washrooms more quickly if the design was more human friendly? Surely, Mr. CEO, you can find time to rectify the situation. Please show us that you really do give a sheet. 

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