With regard to frumkeit, before you completely write off Northern California, consider my glorious washing sink. Actually, consider my whole apartment, which was undeniably built for a Jew. The back patio is large and sukkah-ready, the tile counters take sticky paper well enough on Pesach that it lasts year-round, and it came with a washing sink smack center in the home. I know what you’re thinking: how is that even possible that anyone in such an unholy place actually anticipated a hand-washing Torah Jew living here, let alone a Jew at all?
A result of the swinging California lifestyle of the late 1970’s, the sink was built-in as part of a “wet bar”. For some odd reason (maybe because I’m really damn old), most of my cohorts don’t know what a wet bar is (or was, I guess). In the homes of the times, these weird little nooks always appeared off to one side of the living area and featured cabinets for your booze and glassware as well as a sink for your…ice? Melting ice? Water? Anyway, ours is a washing sink obviously, and no alcohol is ever stored there. It’s currently stuffed with shabbos table linens, challah covers, and oddly enough, two boxes of Yahtzee yet no Apples to Apples. It’s too holy NOT to bentshlicht there. I flip the light switch and it’s almost as good as the shechina shining eternally over Sarah’s tent. Oh yeah, and the lightbulb serves as sort of a ner tamid during the week, so if you come home in the dark you don’t have to stumble around for a light, the soft glow guiding you in.
As a single girl, I had the opportunity to stay in quite a few beautiful Jewish homes (and by beautiful I mean that they were peaceful, not necessary fancy-shmancy), and some of them had washing sinks custom built in. Some of them were logically placed right off the dining room, usually adorned with some sort of vase with dry sticks in it and a collection of jewel-toned hand towels, always with gold scrollwork and tassels on which I was afraid to wipe my hands. In fact, in the homes of the rich, I found myself spending more time trying to wipe up the water stains I didn’t want to leave behind than I spent time actually making brachos. Oh well.
Even in some humbler homes though, I witnessed washing sinks installed in the hallway, central to everyone’s bedroom doors for purposes of negel vasser. There was one balabusta that thought to take advantage of a little empty corner in the hallway only to find that with the end result, she couldn’t wedge the washing cup up under the Kohler faucets, and was instead left with a gorgeous spitting sink like at the dentist’s. Or a pristine urinal, whatever.