The nuance of Conn Library’s motion-activated, overhead bathroom lights has worn off

Derek Pufahl, Guest Columnist

If you have not had the opportunity to use the Conn Library basement bathrooms, let me fill you in on a crucial element to this article. They’ve been blessed with the radical invention of the motion sensor (another wave of the future). It’s great. I’m very much on board with touching as little as possible in a public bathroom.

I know that supposedly there are more germs on my phone than on a toilet seat, but—I mean—come on now, what is that crusty stuff, there?! And it’s indisputable that the flush handle in your run-of-the-mill latrine is crawling with so many bacteria they outnumber those in the toilet bowl itself.

I look forward to the day when the technology exists so that I can float on a cushion of an air, do my business with my arms crossed and have toilet paper fairies do the wiping and, at the snap of my fingers, commence quickly with a very detailed and rigorous sanitation procedure.

So, this motion-sensing nuance is okay in my book, however, this, in combination with the motion-activated overhead lights, have caused me three moments (to date) of anxiety-ridden panic and frustration whilst seated on the porcelain throne.

Today, or last week actually, and twice before that, as I sat in the stall twiddling my thumbs, thinking about toilet paper fairies—giving them unique names, like Clementine or Steve, and thinking up their rich cultural practices and daily rituals and how they are unfortunately born into a miserable life of servitude, the poor dears—the lights went out.


I heard a preemptive click and then pitch black. My pants down. Alone in a quiet bathroom stall. Lights out. A slight breeze, the origin of which is unknown to me, brought goosebumps to my vulnerable unmentionables.

(Right now, at this point in the article, I am relying on the fact that this is not an uncommon experience, and that you, the reader, are sympathizing with me—laughing perhaps, but laughing with me. Yes?)

What’s a person to do in this predicament? While you’re in the middle of… you know what. Panic?


I’ll tell you what you do now. Deep breaths. Oops, no, not deep breaths, you are in a bathroom. Remember?

Okay, calm down. The sensor needs to detect motion. So, I’ll tell you what to do. Unlock the door, swing the door open, which should create enough motion to turn the lights back on. Right?

Only one way to find out.

Flush! You’ve broken connection with the toilet’s sensor and tiny water droplets let you know it. You clench your teeth and purse your lips. You do this unconsciously, it is part of the experience.

But, even still, you’ve met success. Let there be light! Wow, you are good. But, hold up, the stall door is now wide open.

Do you dare get up again and let the toilet flush a second time? Remember, you’ve also yet to wipe. That will make a total of three flushes! Will the people outside hear these flushes? What will they think? When you finally do return to your study table and attempt to continue to annotating “Gulliver’s Travels”—noting stark comparisons to Jack Black’s monstrosity—what stern disgusted faces will meet you?

Clementine! Steve! Where art thou in this, your master’s time of need?

Reorganizing the paper towels, no doubt… the morons.