Rise of the Machines

American human beings hate their hands and it’s killing me.

More to the point: modern Americans would rather wave their hands in front of a sensor than use their digits to open, say, a toilet lid. Or a trash can. Or even turn on a faucet. All in the name of avoiding germs.

Look, fellow neurotics: I get fearing germs. I’ve cozied up to many anonymous bottles of hand sanitizer in my day. I’m not proud. That weird feeling of sharp liquid burning underneath your fingernails before instantly drying is unusually comforting to me.

By which I mean to say I’m a man of my times. I understand and appreciate germs.

But I’m also sick of only being able to operate things by using invisible sensors. It’s more obnoxious to me than comforting, and even the giddy thought about a medieval person accidentally wandering into a time machine and ending up inside a modern American bathroom and thinking the entire room was operated by witchcraft…well, even that thought isn’t enough for me to be jazzed about the whole thing.

(That comes close to getting me jazzed, though. That poor medieval man would be so confused, and I find that charming.)

I’m not saying the sensors are annoying.

I’m saying they’re ruining America.

Still not convinced?

You’re a grown man forced into playing some obscene game of chicken with a robot sink that won’t give you water unless you find the exact right spot where the sensor is shining.

Okay, non-believer. On the one hand, we’ve got Stephen Hawking admonishing us to be concerned about Artificial Intelligence (because of the Terminator films), and on the other hand we’ve got robot toilets that now flush themselves before we’re even ready to wipe. I’ve had a toilet flush on me about twenty times in one sitting, all based on microscopic movements of my back muscles (apparently), each time baptizing me in toilet water (because these automatic toilets? They flush AGGRESSIVELY).

So you leave the bathroom covered in the foulest of all waters, convinced you’ve been bullied by a toilet, and guess what? You’re not wrong. You were bullied by a toilet. It flushed all over you until you finally gave up and left. Who cares how successful your wiping was?

This aggressive, bullying sensory system now runs your bathrooms.

Try washing your hands. Just try. Leave your open palm underneath the soap sensor and wait.

Just kidding: if you wait, it will never come out. You have to wave your hand like you’re jonesing for drugs, and maybe then it’ll squirt a little bit into your palm.

A little bit. This little bit, of course, isn’t enough. So keep waving and it will keep squirting. Sometimes, though, it’ll take a second to register, and it will squirt after you’ve already removed your hand, leaving a nice trail of foam coiled by the bathroom sink.

I.E., wasted soap.

I.E. that never would have happened if I could have just pumped the stuff myself.

Now that your palms are “soapy” leave them underneath the sink, like a boy begging for bread, but instead you’re a grown man forced into playing some obscene game of chicken with a robot sink that won’t give you water unless you find the exact right spot where the sensor is shining.

That means, again, jiggling your hands all over the place, the karate kid versus some magical sensor that I’m not convinced is always shining in the same spot. I think, maybe, it moves and shifts and tries to avoid your hands, just like a sneaky robot sink would do.

Once you’ve finally made contact (finally), and that blessed water comes rushing out, it’s the weakest stream you’ve ever known, temperature controlled beyond your control and (worst of all), once you’ve moved your hands away from the sensor to, you know, actually wash your hands, the water will stop coming out. Game, set, match.

I’ve had to separate my hands just to wash them, leaving one hand to trigger the sensor, while one hand closes over itself, groping the water in a stupid attempt to move the soap around before it all gets washed away. This looks strange. Because it is strange. It is pointless, because it isn’t washing your hands, as I understand it. It’s bowing to the whims of the machines.

And here’s the rub: more people are probably just not washing their hands to avoid this humiliating sink dance, instead heading straight for the door and leaving all their unwashed germy hand garbage behind them on the handle.

That’s right: as soon as you’re done washing your hands, you’re grabbing that door knob, and your hands are just as germy as they were when you started. Maybe worse off, depending on what our anonymous hand-wash-skipper ate for lunch.

So…a question.

Is the bathroom making fun of you?

Yes. It’s saying, with all its A.I. snark, that you cannot avoid germs, no matter how hard you try. It sets up burning hoops of tom-trickery for you to jump through, like the entertaining dog you are, all to prove a point: you will die some day. Why bother washing your hands at all?

Here’s a paper towel — oh wait, it’s only enough to dry one finger with. Wave at the sensor and maybe you’ll get another one. Muahaha.

So, yes — modern technology now doubling as satire. What’s next? Will the toilet tell me jokes while it flushes all over my body?

Is the sink going to regale me with political opinions while it’s busy not giving me any water?

The paper towel dispenser — is it going to tell me its thoughts on that twitter spat between Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift?

I mean, that would be pretty sweet actually…

And see? Just like that, I lost, and the machines won.

For all we know, that wasn’t even Tay Tay and Nicki at all arguing with each other on the internet. It was just Twitter. Finally sentient. Finally come to life, putting on a fiendish show.

For all you know, that’s all this article is. The internet, writing about how much it hates bathroom sensors, just to throw you off its scent. You’ve been warned.

UPDATE: The author was crushed by an elevator door shortly after completing this piece, wishing all the while that the sensors were working.

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