Taming The Autoflush

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In the distant brown future, I foresee bathroom technology that will make our lauded act
so convenient, sanitary and problem-free that this web site will have no reason to
exist. Innovations like anti-gravity toilet seats are sure to usher in a transcendent
era of untold cleanliness and ease-of-use. Today, although our cheeks still have to
touch sometimes-rancid toilet seats, we do enjoy the precursor of the glorious
technology to come: the autoflush sensor.

We find them in airports and other public places where the threat of sharing a toilet
with those who may defile it is all too high. You sit down, you do your business,
and you leave; the magical electric eye knows when you've left, and suppresses the
evidence accordingly.








The many faces of the autoflush sensor. Are any of them out to get us?





But like all technology, autoflush sensors are a double-edged sword -- they're great when
they work, but when they don't, they create a problem far worse than that which they
solved in the first place.

The overzealous autoflusher is the Turd of Damocles that hovers menacingly over public
toilet use. Maybe it's one out of ten, or one out of a hundred, but there's always one,
waiting for you to shift, squirm, or just clench your cheeks too hard -- any excuse to
release itself in an ass-bathing torrent or, if you lean forward to avoid it, a
back-splattering flood of dungwater.

They masquerade as innocent toilets, and don't reveal their true nature until it's too
late -- you're halfway through your constitutional, and there's no stopping now. Your
choices: ride it out, trying to find that one body position that doesn't set off Old
Faithful; or waddle, ass dripping and pants 'round ankles, into the next stall, and pray
this one isn't out to get you as well.

There must be a better way. Surely this problem with the valves is known to those who
created them. Can they save our asses?

If one judges by web presence alone, Terry Love is Seattle's premiere plumber. His site
is comprehensive and entertaining; surely, if any man knows the Secret To The Autoflush,
it is him. Speaking to Terry about this issue, I learned that businesses don't install
autoflush valves purely for the convenience and sanitation of the user. "It's not only
sanitary, its practical," Terry told me. "The less you can get people to touch your
stuff, the longer it'll last."

Terry elaborated. "A lot of people flush with their shoes. You've got guys who put
all their weight on the flush valves... I don't know what that's going to do to the pipes
in the wall. They're not designed to support the weight of a person. And kids will go
in and flush flush flush... keep hammering it." He paused and laughed. "I've done that
before."

Unfortunately, Terry could offer no insider's advice to those trapped on top of Mount
Splashmore. Since his primary focus is residential plumbing, Terry has little more
technical expertise with autoflush valves than any other bathroom civilian. "I haven't
had to work with them yet... I'm just a user."

Terry suggested I might get answers by contacting those responsible for the autoflush valves directly. Following
his advice, I spoke first with Steve Bronson, owner of Air Delights, one of the largest distributors of autoflush valves in the country. He explained the
mechanics of the autoflush valve: "An infrared sensor on the battery-operated unit
detects motion, and a magnetic solenoid that attaches to a push rod activates the flush.
When you step up to the unit, you break the beam. The unit knows that someone has
broken the beam, and once the user gets out of the path of the beam, it activates the
flush."

Mounted on the top or the side of the flush valve, the infrared beams are adjustable to
pick up movement from 8 to 54 inches away, depending on the manufacturer. When the beam
is broken, the unit does nothing -- it waits until the beam is again whole, waits a few
seconds to make certain the user has left the unit, then triggers the flush.

But as John Lauer, Director of Technical Services at Sloan Valve, explained, it's more
complicated than it sounds. "You want the beam to pick up a sitter, you want to pick up
a stander, you want to pick up someone hovering -- but you don't want to pick up the
door. So it's difficult, with a lot of variables."

Autoflush valves have been around for a long time -- Sloan Valve has been making them for
at least 20 years --so there has been a lot of research into failsafe mechanisms to help
deter premature flushing. Ron Bank of Ron Bank Associates described the efficacy of
contemporary safety measures. "In a closet {stall} situation, you have literally have to
get up and leave to make it flush -- or crouch down and put your head on the floor, that
might do it."

All three men I spoke with ardently denied that autoflush valves have any
history of turning against their human masters. "Frankly," said Mr. Bank, "we've been
selling them in this territory for close to 15 years, and we've never had a complaint to
that effect."

Mr. Bronson agreed. "I've been working with these for a long time, and the complaint we
mostly get is that they'll flush over and over and over. In my experience, what you just
described very rarely happens on the units we offer. It's possible it might happen on
other units from other companies, but not on ours."

But it does happen. PoopReport has the stories, and many of us have the experience. I
pressed each representative to temporarily, for the sake of PoopReporting, accept the
existence of the problem, and speculate on probable causes and possible solutions.

They proposed a number of reasons. Faulty installation, perhaps. (Mr. Bank: "We find
frankly that most plumbing contractors are not particularly versed in setup. Their main
concern is to get off the job as quickly as possible and go home.") Maybe a smudge on
the lens. Maybe improper range or angular adjustment of the beam. Or, maybe low
batteries -- "It's possible that if the batteries get low, that reduces the effectiveness
of the object lock beam," Mr. Bronson speculated.

Regardless of the underlying cause, the result is that the unit flushes because it
thinks the beam is no longer broken -- it thinks you've stepped out of the path of the
beam. The consensus among the men I spoke with, to varying degrees of certainty, is that
the issue could be resolved by ensuring the unit knows the beam is, in fact, still
broken.

With this knowledge, a unit on an anal jihad is easily defeated. By placing your hand
in front of the sensor, the beam is broken, and unless the problem is with the internal
mechanics of the unit, it will refrain from flushing until you've pulled your hand away.

If you don't have the flexibility to finish your business while holding this awkward
pose, you can use this temporary flushing reprieve to wrap some toilet paper a few times
around the unit -- this breaks the beam so you can pull your hand away. Just make sure
to remove the paper when you leave, so future poopers aren't forced to stumble upon the
corn you had for dinner last night.

-- Dave

Like Dave? He's featured in The Journal of Ass Production!

20 Comments on "Taming The Autoflush"

corncob's picture
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Thank you for your report, Dave. I salute you.

Unfortunately, the brilliant toilet-paper-around-the-sensor ruse may not work for me, because the sensors in our building are set right into the wall. *sigh*

AssBlaster2000's picture
PoopReport of the Year Awardj 1000+ points
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Corncob, exactly what college do you attend? I'm really starting to think we go to the same school. My college's are also built into the wall and also exist in the computer lab building where you mentioned you were. I'll post this in the forums if you don't want it here.

Dakota's picture
k 500+ points
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I thought about AB when Terry Love mentioned the folks that put all their weight on a lever when flushing. AB confessed on the forums that she often does Matrix moves to flush in public facilties and that must cause a lot of harm! Dave, that was a great article. You're right. You'd have to be a real athlete to cover the sensor with your hand while taking a dump in the conventional position. One solution would be to crap sitting on the pot facing the rear of the stall. Then you can use your hand to cover the sensor. I've not tried this position myself, but it is probably a lot more comfortable than stoop 'n poop, a position that I sometimes use in particularly foul public restrooms.

Che's picture
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great article. i haven't had the pleasure of being doused by an autoflush-crapper with a vengeance, but i've always been aware of the possibility. those things make me nervous. as for Dakota's suggestion of facing the wall: the mental image i got was very funny. good idea.

i didn't know AB2K was a girl! guess i should spend more time in the forums.

Che

Dakota's picture
k 500+ points
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Che, I can assure you that AB2K is 100% female! Her posts fool folks though because she's real tough and doesn't take shit from anybody. Also, she's real bright!

anonymous's picture
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I'm the same anonymous guy who originally (?) posted, on 9-7-02, the toilet-paper-over sensor thing on PR. (See the "Stories" link above.) As for the in-wall sensors, there's usually a pipe jutting out of the wall right next to the sensor, so you can hang the TP from the pipe and make sure it drapes over the sensor. (See the picture above.) It works, trust me, I've got this down to a high art.

Anonymous's picture
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In the case of in-wall sensor without a nearby pipe: I had this problem in an airport. Only open stall and the darn thing flushed everytime I breathed in. I knew tp would block, but how to get it to stick? So I quickly opened the door, washed my hands at the opposing sink and went back in. I then took some lip balm and got a good dab on the tp and stuck it to the wall. Problem solved.

take a shit's picture
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bring a small peice of duct tape and put it over the sensor

technology gone bad's picture
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I worked for a Equifax when they built a new office building complete with auto flushing toilets, hand faucets that turned on when you put your hands under them and bathroom lights that turned on and off based on occupancy... all of the stuff malfunctioned all the time. You could EXPECT to have your but sprayed all the time, while the lights turned out when you remained still for too long and then not be able to wash your hands because the faucet didn't think anyone was there. Most of us used post-it-notes on the toilet sensors to fool them into staying turned off and we learned to move around while dumping so the lights would stay on.

slim jim junkie's picture
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som hi tech stuff is pointless. this is a good example

dr spock's picture
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perhaps a simple solution is not to wear so many relective shirts?

The Shit Volcano's picture
Comment Quality Moderatorh 3000+ points
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Here's an idea to fix automatic toilets.

Step 1- Light fuse of cherry bomb.

Step 2- Drop in toilet.

Step 3- Flush.

Step 4- Repeat as desired. After a while the sons-a-bitches will get the idea and install a regular hands-on flush toilet.

I found Jesus! He was behind the sofa the whole time!

RoboCrap13's picture
l 100+ points
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I carry a flat-pack of duct tape in my wallet.
It's a plastic card wrapped with about 20 ft.
I've used a small piece of that to cover an automatic flusher.
Just remember to take it with you.


_______
You have the right to remain Silent but Deadly....

You have the right to remain Silent but Deadly....

healthy 1's picture
j 1000+ points
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More ideas to fix auto flush toiets:

A: Spray paint over the eye in black spraypaint.

B: Keep a persuasion tool handy (prefferably a hammer).

C: Get enough people to bitch about auto flush toilets, until management replaces the auto flush with a traditional model.

D: Just cover over the eye with TP. This is the most legal, and inexpensive way. It also will avoid the risk of felony charges of vandalism.
_______
"Two percent of the population think; three percent of the population think they think, and 95 percent of the population would rather die than think."

"Two percent of the population think; three percent of the population think they think, and 95 percent of the population would rather die than think."

Aeryn's picture
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My solution to sensors of all types- especially those infernal wall-mounted ones- is a Post-It note. I stick it over the sensor, do my business, and take it off when I leave. It folds up in my hand and drops neatly into a trash can, and I don't have to worry about finding a place to stick toilet paper. The ladies can carry a pack of Post-Its in their purses easily for that purpose, as I do. I guess the guys can carry them in their pockets?

ChiliKahKah's picture
j 1000+ points
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An auto flusher is like the new slot machines....it is just more fun to pull the lever yourself rather than let the toilet do it for you.

Anonymous's picture
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Cool article dude!

Anonymous's picture
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Just want to say, such a cute article!

Anonymous's picture
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I see I wasted my time signing up here, utter drivel, learn to write a decent post you wastrel.

ChiefThunderbutt's picture
PoopReport of the Year AwardComment Content ModeratorComment Quality Moderatorf 5000+ points
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In reply to the comment Submitted by Anonymous on Tue, 06/12/2012 - 17:39.

Strange that your user name appears as "Anonymous" if you spent anytime at all signing up. Now you waste everyone's time by dropping in to post drivel of your own.

How long a minute is depends on what side of the bathroom door you're on!