Mike Eng User Experience Designer 401-234-4611
me on github

Usability Observation #13

Jun 16, 2010

Fan and Garbage Can

An odd pairing of two objects in close proximity: a garbage can and an industrial fan, in a subway station. I tried to put a granola bar wrapper in this can, and it blew away. I’m fairly certain I’m not the only person who has had this problem.

As I see it, this situation could be interpreted in one of two ways.

#1: A simple oversight. Maybe one person placed the garbage can where it is, and later another person planted the fan near it by necessity since it was near the electrical outlet. Or maybe the same person placed them both where they are without putting himself into the situation of a subway passenger throwing away trash or observing how people interact with the setup.

#2: Conspiracy. The cleaning company and the facilities maintenance department of the MBTA worked out a deal. In exchange for a small bribe, the facilities company would create traps such as this, which highlight the need to continue the MBTA’s contract with the cleaning company.

Advertisement for Cleaning Company

The conspiracy theory is corroborated when one notes the placement of this sign for the cleaning company, located on the wall behind the trap.

Trap Context in Subway

Also note that the fan is chained in place – ostensibly to deter fan theft, but maybe secretly to maintain the trap.

Oversight or conspiracy? You decide.