Minutes 2 Midnight

"Do you remember where you were when?..." That question sums up the purpose of this site. When reflecting upon any occasion of great importance, most people remember vividly where they were and what they were doing when the event occurred. Am I the only one who finds these reflections fascinating? I'm thinking "probably not", but let's see if you agree. Take a look at the topics below (in the "Categories" or "Recent Posts" sections), choose one of interest to you, and add your story.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Where Were You When You Realized: Too Much Technology Can Be a Bad Thing

Sometimes it's the little things in life that get under your skin; the things that you normally don't think about, but that occasionally reach out, smack you upside the head, and demand your attention. I was recently reminded of one such thing yesterday, and thought that picking up the keyboard and writing about it might prove therapeutic. So I'm writing.

When you were a kid, did you ever think about what new gadgets might populate the planet in the future? I'm talking "Jetson" gadgets, here: housekeeping robots, flying cars, semi-talking dogs...and hands-free toilets. Now, my recollection doesn't assign that last item to a Jetsons episode, but it certainly is right up the alley: cool, futuristic, and hassle-free. Well, such was my supposition when, one day at work, they ripped out all of the old "that's so 90's" toilets and put in state-of-the-art replacements. As an added bonus, the landlord also installed futuristic faucets - the kind that would automatically turn on when you held your hands under them, and turn off when you pulled away. I must say that all of us felt quite special with the new additions gracing our facilities. Such amenities were a luxury, so this was something to savor. And savor them, I did. No more touching of dirty bathroom surfaces for me. The future was here, and I was going to take full advantage of it.

Until the problems started.

Now, let's keep in mind, here, how these wondrous hands-free fixtures actually work: They are equipped with a sensor that detects reflected laser light (ie: when your hands pass under the faucet, or you bum is deposited on the porcelain) or clearances when the reflection is removed (ie: opposite of what I wrote before). Well, I don't know if these sensors wear out over time or if I started wearing strange-colored clothing - I just know that the future has not been looking too good of late.

At no time was this reality illustrated more clearly than yesterday evening. So what happened? Well, yesterday evening I was sitting at my desk, working late, when suddenly I became sick. Now, this happens to me occasionally for one reason or another, but until then it had always conveniently occurred at home. You know the kind of sick: The kind where you feel like you've eaten something that doesn't agree with you, and your furious body is determined to expel whatever-it-was out of any and every possible orifice. Yeah. That kind of sick. So I rushed to the nearest facility and did what one normally does when things are threatening to come out both ends in an inopportune place (I'm trying really hard to be as delicate as I can, here): sat down to take care of one end, and prayed very hard that the other end would hold off until the first one was finished. And, um, what happened while I was sitting? The toilet misfired. Yup. The toilet flushed while in use. Well (sill trying to be delicate) I don't know about your facilities, but ours tend to splash during flushage, and I myself have never really relished the prospect of taking a bath in public toilet water. So, I stood up. Waited impatiently for the flush to finish. Sat down again. At this point, I knew the all-too-familiar drill: If I made one movement (ie: reached for the nearby paper), the toilet would misfire again. In its entirety, the drill would be:

Reach for paper.
***Toilet Misfire***
Reach for more paper.
***Toilet Misfire***

You get the idea. There have been times when I've been treated to this "wash-rinse-repeat" cycle four or five times during a typical trip to the facilities. I must say, though, that (fortunately for me that night) this time the cycle was only repeated once. I don't know. Maybe I was wearing just the right colored clothes (I had some white on) to get the sensor to operate correctly at least some of the time. At any rate, I was thankful for the single loop. So afterward I was feeling some better, and simultaneously looking thankfully heavenward because I had managed to tamp down the urge to expel out the other end (first time I've ever done that. Amazing what untapped strength one will find when faced with the prospect of ralphing in a public bathroom). Pleased, I walked to the sink to wash my hands. Knowing what was to come, I held the hands under the faucet. Little streams of tepid water slightly wet my fingers. The water stopped. I held them under again. More little streams. The water stopped. Sequence:

Water starts.
***Water stops.***
Water starts.
Apply soap.
***Water stops.***
"You stupid...!"
Water starts.
Wash han...
***Water stops.***

Pretty clear. So after all this, I have to ask myself: Is the original purpose of installing the hands-free toilets ("they'll use less water!") being fulfilled? Something tells me that 5 or 6 successive flushes per use means "no". And what about the original purpose of the hands-free faucet? Well, to be honest, I'm not really sure what that was. Unless it was designed to frustrate the crap out of sud-soaked bathroom-goers (difficult in and of itself, considering the foregoing). In which case, it's been a glittering success.

Yup. Sometimes the future.....just needs to stay there.

So am I the only one that's had this problem? I've talked to my co-workers, and none of them have ever experienced it. Am I alone in the universe?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our company faucets are also temperature regulated. So no more cold water to drink. Almost impossible to fill a kettle in one go (a thumb over the "eye" helps, and one of them decided to go on and off 300 times in a row the other day.

4:05 AM  
Blogger Midnight Oil said...

Hi Anonymous,

Ah...so I'm not the only one who has experienced a water faucet that starts only when it good and well wants to. Never occurred to me to cover the "eye", though. That's a good idea. Thanks for the tip!


10:47 PM  
Anonymous Cody's person said...

Dear Author,

While it can be quite disconcerting to be sprayed in the you know where with ecoli water and gosh knows what else; take comfort in the fact that your immune system is fighting the good fight. Also, from your description of the rogue toilet, I'm pretty sure that I've met it.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Midnight Oil said...

Cody's Person:

LOL! So we've made the same acquaintance, eh? You might be interested in this article
that I ran across. Looks like there are some real world explanations for the toilet tantrums

3:15 AM  

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