Recently when my sister was out here visiting, we were at a restaurant having lunch. We had been doing some shopping and quite a bit of walking, and a trip to the rest room was needed. After we ordered our food, I excused myself and headed to the ladies’ room.
When I opened the door, there was a clearly disgruntled woman – probably a bit older than I – who was frustrated because she couldn’t get paper to come out of the dispenser. She was moving her hand below and in front, but no paper emerged. She expressed her frustration to me, and I concurred, telling her that I frequently am unable to get the automatic sinks to work or the automated paper towel dispenser to do its job. We exchanged crabby looks and made cynical remarks about how automation doesn’t always make our lives easier. She left, drying her hands on her pants as she walked out.
I went into the stall and the entire time I was in there, I worried about whether or not the automated paper towel dispenser would work for me or if I was going to have to wipe my hands on my pants as well. After I was finished, I washed my hands and gritted my teeth and went over to the dispenser. I moved my hand below it. Nothing. I moved my hand in front of it. Nothing. Sigh.
It was about that time that I noticed a handle on the dispenser. Oddly enough, when you manually pressed this handle, paper emerged. Weird, huh?
Yes, my friends, we are so used to having automation in our public restrooms that it didn’t occur to this woman, and almost didn’t occur to me, that we actually had to manually express the paper towels. It’s true, I’m afraid, that there have been many occasions when I have placed my hands under a water faucet only to realize that I actually needed to turn a handle. I’m blaming this mental hiccup on drinking sloe gin fizzes as a college student.
However, I feel compelled to tell you that for some reason, I really do have a problem getting automatic water faucets to deliver water to me (even when they actually ARE automatic). I approach them confidently, place my hands where I think they should be, and nothing happens. I move my hands up and down, and nothing happens. I move to the next sink and it doesn’t work. Just then, a young woman will step up to the first sink that failed me and water will come pouring out like Niagara Falls. Young whippersnapper, I will think to myself, as I move down the line of sinks hoping for a dribble or two.
Sometimes automated bathrooms can go too far. One day I took then-3-year-old Mylee to Lil’ Monkey Business — an indoor playground for small kids. Before we left, I took her to the bathroom to wash her hands. She did so, and headed to where the paper towels should be located. No paper towels, only one of those automated things where you stick both of your hands inside, and air blows like Hurricane Katrina as you slowly pull your hands out of the dryer. Unless you’re 3 years old and the entire thing — the way it looks, the sound it makes, the gale force wind it emits– scares the bejeezus out of you. Now, who thought that was a good idea, I thought as we walked out of the bathroom, Mylee wiping her hands on her pants.
For the most part, I embrace technology and automation. In fact, if I could figure out a way to automate cleaning my house, I would do so in a heartbeat. That way the house would be, well, clean. The closest thing I’ve discovered is the Roomba, and I’m thiiiiiis close to buying one.
I will leave you with a funny story about the Roomba. My daughter-in-law Jll received a Roomba as a birthday gift. Their entire house has hardwood floors, and she will run it at night downstairs and run it upstairs during the day. The Roomba apparently knows not to go down the staircase. Don’t ask me.
They were out of town one weekend shortly after receiving the Roomba. Prior to leaving town, she had given me some zucchini that had been given to her and I volunteered to make zucchini bread while they were gone. I did so, and stopped by their house to drop it off so that they would come home to a lovely loaf of freshly baked bread for the next day’s breakfast. I walked in, set the bread on the counter, and turned to go. Just then, the Roomba came shooting out of their coat/cubby room and zipped in front of me on its merry way to the family room. I nearly jumped out of my skin.
Automation can be dangerous to your health. Just ask Mylee.
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