In the restrooms at work hangs a small fixture, a nondescript white plastic box about the size and shape of a countertop electric can opener. It is rather high on the wall, where it should be easy to overlook, just as one usually overlooks the smoke alarms, fire sprinklers, and other such routine fixtures on and near ceilings. It took me awhile, after I began working in that building, to notice it, and awhile longer to figure out that it is an air freshener.
Now, this is no simple box of smelly goo. It is a particularly active device, for something that merely puts a fragrance in the air. To begin with, it is decidedly electronic. It has a little LCD display on the front with a digital readout showing a number. This number, when I began a month ago, was in the neighborhood of 25 and has been counting down days (or something) to zero ever since.
It is also not merely a heated stick of scented wax. Every so often it puts forth a little spritz of smelly stuff. Perhaps it goes off once every ten minutes; perhaps it goes when it senses motion. I’m not sure. It gave me quite a start the first time I was in there--alone, I thought--and heard the little pffft of fragrance released into the air.
As it happens, whatever stuff it squirts does not smell particularly appealing. It is an industrial, antiseptic fragrance, at best. This restroom gets frequent enough cleaning attention and little enough use that it could do without the air “freshener” entirely. Needless to say, nobody consulted me before installing this device.
The little number yesterday reached zero, at last. I presume this means that the air freshener has run out, or is on the brink of running out, of whatever substance it squirts. I was honestly looking forward to the moment, to see what happened when zero came. (Perhaps, I hoped, the thing would self-destruct!) I was particularly looking forward to the lack of smelly stuff for it to inject with its little pffts, and inwardly hoping that the janitorial staff might not notice that little blinking zero, with the device so high up on the wall and so long between refills.
Well, no sooner did the counter reach zero than the infernal device started to beep. Every ten seconds or so it emits a beep-beep. Smoke alarms in need of batteries are less persistent than this foolish air-freshening device, though they are of vastly greater importance. The janitorial staff cannot help but be aware of the thing and feed it more of whatever smelly concoction it burps, but I do not think they carry the air freshener with them. They cleaned this evening before I left, and they plainly had not fed the starving brick. It is probably still beeping now.
I fly out tomorrow night, and I won’t miss that restroom one bit.