Train Toilet Usability

Found another example of crap usability (quite literally… erm?) – Midland Mainline Turbostar toilets. Horrible places. OK, on the plus side that do they seem to work usually, probably because the trains are newer than the Intercity 125s where flushes and seat-catches are broken, towels run out or strewn on the floor, and water supply intermittent. They’re also nice and big. But on the minus side… everything’s electronic. So you can bet that before too long they will start going wrong. And they’re confusing as hell.

To get in, you press a pad on the wall outside and the door slides open. You then have to press another pad on the inside to close the door (once you’ve found it – OK, it was fairly prominently placed, but in that large toilet and in my hungover state it took me a while), and another pad to lock it. And then a red light goes on next to it. Because I pressed the lock straight after closing the door, I wasn’t sure whether this light meant “the door is now locked” or “warning! the door is not locked!” and the pad didn’t even have a nice click to it so that I could be sure I had pressed it hard enough. So I opened the door again to be sure. And closed it. And then the lock pad wouldn’t do anything – it didn’t start off red, and wouldn’t go red no matter how many times I pressed it. “Ahhh” I thought, “it thinks I’m outside the toilet now.” Despite the fact that I’d pressed the inner button to close the door, it obviously assumed that since I had come inside, closed the door, and then opened and closed it again, it had been through a full cycle. I quickly opened the door again just in case the toilet started spraying me with air-freshener or other noxious chemicals. Closing it a final time, I noticed the lock button was now flashing red, ahh, that’s the sign that I need to lock it. I did. And it went continuous red again. OK, so I’ve now got as far as locking the door.

The toilet bit was relatively painless (unless you take into consideration the size of… no, let’s not go there), although the flush mechanism was again triggered by a piddly little electronic pad on the wall, just waiting to go wrong.

Now wash your hands. Easier said than done. One of those all-in-one soap-water-hot-air under-shelf dispensers. The soap part was easy enough… now gotta wiggle my hands around until I can find the point that triggers the water… ah, there it is. And then, shift my hands across to find the hot air… gotta be here somewhere… maybe here… no… or here… ah, it was back where I tried in the first place, just gotta keep your hands underneath for a bit longer. All that remains is to massage my hands dry in the hot airstream while avoiding moving my sleeves under the water trigger… and then back to negotiating the door.