Sunday, October 18, 2009

Smart Toilets--Technologic Wonder or "Oh Crap?"

The other day at Wal-Mart I experienced the disharmonic convergence of two great ideas.

The first great idea is automatic flush toilets. How cool is this idea? The toilet uses “Smart Object Infrared Technology” to flush itself—eliminating “cross-contamination”. “Cross-contamination” is a fancy phrase meaning; “getting poo on your hands.” If you wonder why this is necessary, think to yourself; "do the highly paid and motivated janitorial staff at Wal-Mart (or anywhere) sanitize toilet handles?" Not likely.

I go to great lengths to avoid touching handles--touching a public toilet handle is as repugnant to me as washing my hands in the bowl itself. Being a tall person comes in handy as I can flush most toilets and even urinals with my feet—although as I get older the handles seem to be getting higher on the wall. Since I know I’m not the only “foot-flusher,” handles are not only cross-contaminated with poo, but also with chewed gum and other stuff from the bottom of shoes.

The second great invention is the “low-flow” toilet. Low-flow toilets are environmentally friendly because they use less water for each flush. Low-flow toilets use computer-modeled hydrodynamics to increase disposal velocity. In other words; they compensate for using less water by flushing with extreme force.

You would think that combining a self-flushing toilet with a low-flow toilet would result in a new "miracle" toilet; it didn't. Instead, it resulted in a dirty, cold-water bidet. As you know, a bidet is supposed to be a low sink intended for washing the “lower regions” with warm, clean water. The toilet at Wal-Mart scrubs your lower regions with cold poopy water.

Let me explain by using a hypothetical example. Let’s say, for example, that you’re sitting on this new fangled self-flushing, low-flow wonder and you tilt to the side just a little bit to “take care of business”. The “Smart Object Infrared Technology” senses you have left the stall and flushes the toilet with the force of a fire hose. The problem is, you’ve not left, nor have you removed your now soaking wet naked butt from the seat. You’re also now afraid to move in case the damn sensor shoots another blast of water into the bowl.

With as little movement as possible you now carefully use the single-ply waxed toilet paper provided to clean up the mess and then leap from your seat to the end of the stall to avoid another shower. You warily eye the sensor and then run from the restroom, (washing your hands first of course) afraid that everyone will see from your damp clothes that you’ve been engaged in warfare with a “smart” toilet.

Next time nature requires I visit one of these technologic wonders I’m arming myself with a rain poncho and bit of old-fashioned duct tape to cover the sensor—after all toilets still have handles.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Christmas List Box

A Parody

When I was little there was a family of poor German immigrants who lived down the street. Their father, with his poor command of the English language, could only find work at the Post Office where he worked miss-delivering the mail. It was always exciting to run to the mailbox and see whose mail we had received that day. We often opened the letters and cards, especially if they were from lawyers or looked like birthday cards (cause you know what’s in those . . .).

Opening other peoples mail was especially fun at Christmas time, we got to read all about the fun vacations strangers had taken and how well their kids were doing in school. But one day we opened a card that would change our lives. It was from someone who was so poor their card was made from a shoe box lid with magazine pictures pasted on it.

When we read the card we felt very sad. It was from Dwight, a widowed father of an five-year-old girl, named Eustice. Dwight was writing his rich uncle in Chicago to ask for some money. All Eustice wanted for Christmas was Jumbo, the Bubble-Blowing Elephant, but Dwight couldn’t afford Jumbo on his meager salary as Transfer Station Manager. “Transfer station” is a fancy name for the place where garbage trucks deposit their cargo for sorting and loading into larger vehicles.

From the garbage, Dwight had collected and assembled most of Jumbo, the Bubble-Blowing Elephant. However, he was afraid there wouldn’t be enough time before Christmas to collect all the necessary parts and so he was writing his wealthy uncle to beg for enough money to buy Eustice a new Jumbo from Woolworths Department Store.

Reading the card made us feel really guilty because by opening the card, we knew that now Eustice wasn’t going to get Jumbo, the Bubble-Blowing Elephant for Christmas. We had misplaced the original envelope and besides we couldn’t tell anyone what we had done because opening the personal mail of others is a punishable federal offense and we didn’t want to go to jail to meet the real “Jumbo”.

Right then and there my brother and I were touched by the Christmas Spirit and we decided that we were going to fix this mess and make sure Eustice received her Christmas present! We got an old jewelry box and we wrote “Jumbo, the Bubble-Blowing Elephant” on a piece of paper along with the price and we put it in our new “Christmas List Box”. Then we went to work earning money.

To get money for Jumbo, I delivered newspapers and my brother shoveled snow and did other odd jobs around the neighborhood. Every day we would deposit a few coins into the box and subtract that amount from the total dollar amount we would need for Jumbo. Finally we had saved enough money and my brother and I took the bus downtown to Woolworths. We were really excited about doing something nice for someone and eagerly gave the cashier the big bag of pennies, nickels, and dimes. She wasn’t as “Christmassy” as she could have been when she counted out $20.11 in small change. We even had a little extra money and so we also bought a fresh orange and chocolate bar for little Eustice.

We didn’t want our parents to know what we were doing so my brother went in the front door while I snuck the package in the back door and down the stairs into our basement bedroom. My brother pilfered the wrapping paper from the storeroom and we wrapped Jumbo, the orange and the chocolate bar as neatly as we could.

Finally it was the Thursday before Christmas--time to deliver the present. It had snowed that morning making our street completely white and peaceful. We quietly snuck out of the house with our package. We wrote; “Merry Christmas Eustice!” in red crayon across the front of the package and tied it with a bright green ribbon. We were so excited; this was as good as Christmas morning (except the Christmas where my Mom decided that we needed boxing gloves and my brother hit me when I wasn’t ready and made me cry).

We slipped out the door and quietly stole down the street and waited. Finally it was time; the truck was just around the corner on Thornton Ave. We quietly lifted the lid of Mr. Roberts garbage can and put the package containing Jumbo, the orange and the chocolate bar gently on top of his old newspapers and empty tin cans, softly replaced the lid and hurried back up the street to watch. We could just imagine how surprised Dwight would be to find his Christmas wish answered right there in front of him, mixed in with all of the rotten fruit, broken glass and other garbage. My brother and I both agreed, this was the best Christmas ever!