In my previous post I had written about how scientists helped the Allies win the Second World War. These scientists helped the war effort in myriad ways , large and small.
In Blacketts War , author Stephen Budiansky relates the story of one such scientist on his first day at a field command . The scientist noticed that there was a long line of soldiers waiting to wash their mess kits after each meal. Of the four tubs available , two were for washing and two were for rinsing. As each soldier in line washed and then rinsed his kit , the scientist noted that it took three times as long to wash the kit as to rinse it . He suggested to the authorities that of the four available tubs , three be allocated for washing and one for rinsing . The change was made and the line did not merely shrink : it vanished altogether. Such a simple , commonsense solution and yet it had not occurred to anybody else.
Reading this story , I was reminded of the long lines at women’s restrooms in public places . There are equal numbers of restrooms for men and for women but women take longer in the loo than men do because of the ” difference in plumbing”. As a result , men are able to zip in and out of the restroom while the women are still awaiting their turn. I can understand the failure to address this situation in cramped older buildings such as Broadway theaters, but there is no excuse why this problem cannot be avoided in modern buildings or in new construction .
I remember with amusement an incident that happened during our bus tour in New Zealand two years ago. Our tourist bus had stopped at a rest stop and there was a mad dash for the restrooms , of which there were two each for men and for women . Unsurprisingly , the men quickly finished their business while the poor women impatiently awaited in line . Then , fed up with the wait , the women took action. Waiting for one of the mens restrooms to be vacant , they seized their opportunity and commandeered it for their own use, the next woman in line preventing any men from bursting in it use it. This was all done with a lot of giggling and good humor and I felt totally in sympathy with them . On their own , using their commonsense , they had arrived at the same solution as that scientist all those many years ago.