Another Disney Dilemma: I Am Invisible to Automatic Paper Towel Dispensers

Disneyland Restroom in Fantasyland
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Comedian Demetri Martin claims he has a super power that makes him invisible to bartenders. I personally admit when I approach a bar in any group or competitive situation, it is exceedingly rare that I turn out to be the most attractive or attention seizing person. I wouldn’t call it a power that I possess. No, far, far more often, I fail to garner the interest of whatever it is that causes paper towels to come out of the electronic dispensers in Disneyland Resort restrooms.

Disneyland Restroom in Fantasyland

As far as I am aware, there is nothing unusual about the size of my hands. As far as I can glean from fellow hand washers, there is nothing specifically I am doing wrong. I use water, soap, more water, then when it comes time to retrieve a towel I get nothing. I understand the sensors can be finicky, while some simply don’t work at all. But, I will watch someone in front of me, with little effort, call forth veritable reams of paper. Then, when I approach the very same machine, it stands resolutely still and silent, as if broken.

I try waving my hands. I try holding my hands completely still. I try close, far, and in between. I will sneak up on a dispenser. More than once, to my shame, I have smacked the little box of insolence, hoping for a Fonzie-like result. All to no avail. On one occasion, upon witnessing my ridiculous ballet, a guest remarked my hands must be the wrong frequency.

Ridiculous. Right? Is that even possible? Would that truly make a difference? I know some people are more susceptible to bug bites than others, but is that a frequency thing? Could this be something similar? One offhand comment by some stranger, and now I can’t help wondering if I have some manner of electromagnetic deficiency.

I can’t be the only one. And, Disney is pretty good at fixing things. So it’s probably just a matter of time before Towel Dispenser Mark II, or whatever model is upcoming, makes its way throughout the resort. Until then, if you see someone in the restroom who appears to be having a one-sided sign-language conversation with the paper towels, ignore him. At the very least don’t make some medical or metabolic comment. Even if it’s not accurate, you’ll just make me nervous.

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About the author

Christopher Schmidt

Christopher Schmidt is a former Disneyland Resort bartender and author of The Unofficial Walt Disney World Drinking Companion, The Unofficial Disneyland Drinking Companion, and The Complete Guide to runDisney - Disneyland Edition.
If it involves amusement, attractions, athletics, adventure, and responsible enjoyment of exotic libations, you will find Christopher in the middle of it, eager to tell you all about it.
Questions, topic ideas or improvements, and private correspondence? Drop me a message: [email protected]


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  • Don’t feel bad. I have the exact same problem with the faucets. I stand there with a handful of soap and no water. I try Jedi mind tricks, move to other faucets that others have just used, but alas… nothing. I agree with every word you wrote.

  • I was at a local park recently and had the same problem. I was moving my hands around pretty much looking I was a mime stuck in a box for a couple minutes.

  • So I guess the negative comment people have never had it happen to them…with regards to paper towel dispensers. Happens to me all the time too. I enjoyed the write-up. I guess those of you that get your paper towels just don’t get it. I feel better knowing now that it’s just not me other suffer from being invisible. And I thought it was my recently diagnosed severe nerve damage that was causing my hands to rot away.

  • I have the same superpower and I’ve had to get hand ringers (not wringers!) to do my bidding. Otherwise, I’m the one standing there pleading and gesturing to no avail: “Please? Oh, c’mon, please?” I try my best to make my hand act like the diagram, but those wily dispensers won’t have it. I try the one on the other side of the sink row, hoping the other one was just malfunctioning, but nothing. And waving frantically like a Catskills comedian REALLY doesn’t work. Inevitably I give up and emerge, my hands still dripping and my husband laughing and shaking his head—yet again.

    Thank you for writing this. At least I’m not the only one.

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