Monday, July 02, 2007

Douglas Adams was right

In Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Adams' postulated that machines with anthropomorphic personalities would prove fantastically annoying to most people.

While I didn't doubt that bit of wisdom at the time, I now have first-hand proof that it's true.

First, a lot of the places I frequent started putting in doors that open automatically, Star Trek style. If you've ever seen the wonderful blooper reel from the original series, it contains about 5 minutes of the cast bashing into a door because the guy who was supposed to swish it open missed a cue. Well, I have now walked right into doors that look like they should open automatically but don't. I can swear I hear the high-pitched laughter of sparrows after I've done that.

Then, I started encountering paper towel dispensers that operate when you wave at them, or place your hands beneath them. I don't know about you, but forcing me to wave or hold my hands out in supplication to a machine just makes me feel like a doofus.

There are sinks that tinkle on you when you hold your hands beneath them. Not such a big deal, but the sensors on them seem over-sensitive, and as I've been scrubbing sometimes, the water jets on and off like a little aqua-disco. Again, not a big deal, but it does make you pause and devotes a few cycles of synaptic work to grasp what's occurring. Sinks should not make you have to think, I think.

The most egregious offender, though, is the automatically flushing toilet.

I saw a report once where they were trying to prove if you could pick up stuff from a toilet seat (verdict: bacterial stuff, yes, but rarely; viral, almost never), but they did show how much splash-back was created by the power-flushes that most public toilets have. It leaves a pretty solid misting on the seat if you leave it down. You can test this yourself by putting one of those paper guards on and see what's left after a flush. The upshot (put intended) is if you have your rear on the thing when it goes, your tushie is misted with water that contains the leavings of those before you.

Let's stop and collectively shudder before I go on.

Well. One of the toilets I frequent mistakes a lean too far for an "all clear" and fires up the hurricane. So, you have to shuffle away until it finishes. A lovely moment, I can assure you.

Worse though is how you're "locked in" to the cycle if you come too near a toilet, meaning it will flush if get in general vicinity, then move away.

So what, you say?

In Colorado, we have water conservation pounded into our skulls via constant doom-laden public service announcements, and several-hundred-dollar watering bills. (Ours hovers between $150 and $250 during the summer when we're watering our lawn, which is HOA commanded. Some folks have Xerascaped, but we've heard horror stories about such efforts and want a lawn the kids can play on), so all of us hear a meter ticking when we waste water.

So, the rub is when I go in to just contribute back to the water situation, but someone has already taken up the urinal. (The following has occurred more than once, btw.) I can't just stand there and wait because one of the unwritten social rules of men's bathrooms is you don't wait if there's an open head. If there is one and you just stand there, it's assumed you're George Michael and have dubious intent. Thus, I travel on by to the toilet, but - lo! - apparently the other guy finished tapping off at that moment and leaves the urinal. Not wanting to waste gallons of toilet water, I stop and re-direct to the urinal. But, alas, the toilet had already spotted me and starts to flush. Oh no! Dash to the toilet in hopes of finishing before it does, but then the urinal has spotted you, too, and starts to flush as well!

And then you realize that two inanimate toilets have made you cha-cha around the can like a spaz on his first-ever hit of ecstasy at a rave (not that I'd know about that experience first hand, mind you - I'm just guessing).

Then, the resentment sets in, and you go snark about it on your blog.

More on Adams being right:
Weight of the Universe (and, thus, everything).


Whisky Prajer said...

Colorado and water conservation ... I'd forgotten. Back in '76 the restaurants required customers to ask for a glass of water, if they really required one. Man, that's some kinda dry!

Jewish Atheist said...

Here's a tip for you: cover the sensor with a piece of TP before you sit down.