By now almost all sentient beings on Planet Earth are aware of the Technological Revolution, the one that simplifies our lives and expands our horizons, but can also drive us to distraction.
One I’ve taken particular note of has to do with public restrooms. What were once called Comfort Stations could now be called Tech Central.
Let’s start with the commodes. Used to be, a person could enter the stall, close the door, complete the transaction, and with little effort (good balance helps), place a foot on the flushing lever, press, open the door and exit.
But I’ve found the 21st century way of accomplishing this task to be time-consuming and anything but simple. It has to do with motion detection. The first thing I notice upon entering a restroom cubicle is a tiny flickering light just above the commode. Its function, or so I’m told, is to assure flushing takes place without human contact. I find myself wondering, though—does it have a more sinister purpose? What if it is connected to a GPS satellite that orbits above the earth, tracks the whereabouts of the citizenry, and transmits information to a huge underground bunker where banks of computers keep records of our every move (so to speak)?
Dismissing such thoughts as irrational, I focus on the task at hand. Ready to exit the stall, I retrieve my purse from its hook and start to leave. But nothing happens with that important flushing function. The tiny light seems to gleam brighter, as if taunting me. I turn, swirl, flail my arms–it’s motion detected, right?–but still nothing. This is especially disconcerting when there’s a line of maybe 20 women waiting their turn to enter the stall I now occupy. “Please,” I whisper, staring at the little light, not only taunting but completely ignoring me. I contemplate the embarrassment of the next user coming through the door only to find an unflushed commode. At last, I give up, knowing I cannot take up residence in this particular location. I open the door, hoping none of the ladies in line will notice what I look like. I imagine them later whispering to each other, “There’s the broad who didn’t flush. Gross!”
Miracle of miracles, as I open the door I hear the familiar sound. It flushed! Was it just waiting for me to leave? Is the door the motion it needed? Whatever the trigger, I heave a sigh of relief and head for the next challenge. Washing my hands.
I approach the sink with the motion-activated faucet, place both hands under the spigot, and wait. Sure enough, a stream of water at last appears, and I quickly moisten my hands and place them beneath the soap dispenser. Yes, you guessed it—another motion-dependent device. A short burst of foam covers my palm, I scrub my hands, hold them under the faucet for the rinse cycle, and the task is completed.
Now for the dry cycle. Another challenge awaits. Yes, the paper towel dispenser is indeed motion-activated, but perhaps not surprisingly, it takes its own sweet time. Frustration abounds with this particular technological “blessing”. Recently, a towel dispenser whose service I needed disregarded my frantic gestures.
“I thought these things were supposed to save time, simplify our lives!” I whined to the woman next to me.
“Yeah, so did I,” she said, then shared with me, “There’s one in the office where I work that spews out the paper if someone gets within 20 feet of it!”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Figures,” I replied, still engaged in my symphony conductor impersonation to no avail. Just then I noticed an old-fashioned towel dispenser on the wall, nearly hidden by the high-tech wonder that paid me no heed. I snatched an actual paper towel and dried my hands. My parting gesture to the faux motion-detected machine also went ignored but I felt better.
Recently, I think I came upon the answer to this dilemma. After several futile attempts to coax a response from a motion-activated dispenser, I snapped, “Towel!” As if by magic, the towel appeared!
So instead of all this motion-dependent nonsense, I propose we make these apparatuses voice-activated! Short words would do the trick: Flush! Water! Soap! Towel! Some might see different languages as an issue, but I disagree.
Just program the device in question to respond to the level of frustration in the speaker’s voice. I am willing to bet there’ll be immediate results.