On my way back from Chicago, I stopped at a rest area and saw something I haven’t seen in a long time — a public bathroom with entirely manual controls. In other words, no motion sensors on the faucets, the soap squirter, or the paper towel dispenser. I could use however much I wanted, rather than a predetermined amount, pre-set by some unseen corporate penny-pincher.

That meant none of the awkward waving-my-hand-around until I find the singular point in space where the sensor notices my flesh. Just turn on the faucet and water comes out. How quaint! Need three or four paper towels to dry your face and hands? No problem, help yourself.

It was a pleasure.

Then I remembered a press release I saw last summer, with the headline, “Kimberly-Clark Professional Crosses Final Touchless Frontier With Introduction Of First Electronic Bath Tissue Dispenser.”

A no-touch toilet paper dispenser. The company is promoting it as a way to save paper, because the average amount dispensed is 20 inches. That’s the length of five squares. Who uses that little? Even Sheryl Crow wants more than that!

It’s already hard enough getting public toilet paper dispensers to give us what we need. How many times have you been in there, pulled at the dangling end, and had the toilet paper roll seem to pull back? You end up in a tug of war just to get a decent amount of tissue to take care of business. And if it’s a certain kind of business, that requires a lot more care and a lot more toilet paper. Don’t give me five squares at a time! Do the words Taco Bell mean nothing to you?

We all know to check that there’s paper in the stall before we sit down, but with the automatic dispenser, how can we be sure? The last thing you want is to be stuck in there with an electronic sensor that malfunctions. Next thing you know, you’re begging the person in the next stall to spare a square, preferably without the Sen. Larry Craig hand signals.

If you’re a business owner considering installing this nefarious device in your public bathrooms, how about putting one in your private bathroom first, to see how much you like it before exposing us to it?

Funny thing is, the place I’d stopped a couple of hours earlier was a fast-food restaurant, and it had the automated dispensers in the men’s room, no doubt installed to keep customers from using too much of the valuable bathroom supplies. Ironically, the restaurant had a self-serve beverage station, with unlimited free refills. The message: have all the soda you want, but don’t you dare use up our soft soap!