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Rigging the Bathroom, the Answer

Posted in Puzzle

In last week’s Puzzle we took up the topic of privacy in a hotel bathroom. Here is the setup:


In the illustration above there is a hotel bathroom. The doors on either side open into adjacent rooms, which share the bathroom. In similar situations, hotels (and private residences) have put locks on the doors, so that someone in the bathroom could be assured of privacy, and all they have to do is to unlock the other door before they return to their own room.

Unfortunately, people often forget to unlock the other door. Pounding and shouting ensue. But in this hotel, the management came up with a solution, involving two short pieces of rope, that solved the problem perfectly. What did they do?

This situation is an ancient one, at least as old as bedrooms with shared bathrooms, and the difficulties of the arrangement might well be part of the reason that so few bedrooms nowadays feature shared bathrooms.

But as Henry Petroski notes in his wonderful book, The Evolution of Useful Things, the management of L’Hotel Louis XIV came up with a solution for it:

Rigging the Bathroom Answer, Petroski

I specified rope in my version, but the hotel used leather straps. Either way the solution is to hook, shackle, or tie the two pieces together when you are in the bathroom. Because the doors open into the rooms, this prevents either door from being opened. Privacy is assured against entry from both rooms. You have to disconnect the two pieces in order to leave, thus also automatically unlocking the neighbor’s door.

Before we get to the alternate answers, including one major doozy, let’s pause to congratulate our winner…. Greg Bridges! Congratulations, Greg. Be in touch to tell me where to send your copy of The Sailmaker’s Apprentice, a truly significant book, and one I recommend to all sailors. Heck, it is such a beautiful book, I’d recommend it to anyone. Lots of other interesting things going on at the author’s site, The Artful Sailor

Several entrants said you don’t need two pieces – just one long one that you loop over one doorknob or the other. This has a certain appeal, but you would need doorknobs that could securely and easily hold and release a loop that was placed on them. You’d also be dealing with an inconveniently long piece, that would live on the floor.

Other entrants came up with wonderfully complicated solutions, some of which might actually work, assuming the hotel’s bathroom-lock-retrofit budget was unlimited. My favorite was contributed by last week’s winner, Aaron Drake. His solution was terrifyingly impressive, and I am now in search of a bathroom to try it out on. If you are ready for an engineering marvel, see Aaron’s Bathroom Rig.

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Next week’s Puzzle: Anomalous Sheets.

Fair leads,

Brion Toss

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  1. Dan Reasoner
    Dan Reasoner

    oh… I thought two pieces of rope that tied together to stretch across the room would not be “short”.

    April 18, 2018
  2. SV Beach Flea
    P.O. Box 1841
    Pago Pago, AS 96799

    April 20, 2018
  3. Hey Brian,
    My address is:
    Greg Bridges
    P.O. Box 1841
    Pago Pago, AS 96799

    April 23, 2018

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