Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Micro$oft Toilets

Okay, I'm going to try a little analogy here, although I'm not sure it works. It involves a little something that happened at a movie theater yesterday that disturbed me and made me think a bit.

You know how Microsoft products (especially Word, bane of my existence, whose foibles I am a wizard at foiling) are all the time insisting on "helping" you use them because MS assumes users are too stupid to figure anything out for themselves? It's all automated, behind-the-scenes, and proprietary so you can't customize it yourself. Well it looks to me as though MS has gone into the toilet business. Mass-market, public toilets, of course, the kind the entire world and every huge office building simply can't do without.

Have you encountered MS Flushem 2005 yet? That's just this year's "upgrade"; the product has been around since 2001 or so but by now it's spread all over the country, and even though there hasn't been a single improvement--in fact, the product seems to be getting buggier--it's hard to avoid MS Flushem anymore, and we hapless, dependent users unfortunately have little choice but to use it, bugs and all.

Here are the bugs, as I've experienced them. Apparently I don't fulfill the required specs of the "typical" Flushem user, because I can't get the hang of it at all, ever, and it's been going on for some years. I go into the stall, latch the door, put my purse somewhere other than the door hook so it doesn't get ripped off, and turn back around to take down my pants. And just when I'm about to settle in . . .

. . . the dern toilet flushes.

Excuse me? Did I even SIT DOWN YET? Thunderously splashing all over the seat and the stall and my shoes and the ladies in adjacent cubbies.

I progress through the normal steps of the potty act (well, I think normal, normal for ME at least), and lean over to reach the toilet paper. It must be that I habitually reach away just a little to far to meet the specifications . . .

And the toilet flushes AGAIN! Hello-o? Did you notice I neither finished nor stood up and away from the commode?

Now, I'd like to be more delicate here, but not sure how careful I can be and still achieve clarity. The next step, for me, is leaning back again after attaining the paper, and cleaning up.

Well somehow I have again offended the MS Flushem gods, because the position I take to do this means I have to lean to the side just about one-thirty-second of an inch, but certainly not more than a smidgeon. And MS Flushem is sure that I have stood up, walked yards away and am leaving, and flushes at me (and on me) while I am STILL SITTING THERE! 'Scuse me? I did not need a bidet. A simple toilet is really all I require, thank you.

With me so far? Three times and I haven't even dropped the paper in yet.

Finally I am ready to stand up, pull up, get my purse and . . . there it goes again.

Now this is one I hadn't seen before. But at this particular movie-theater facility, the MS Flushems also do a "courtesy flush." I was well out the door, and the thing courtesy flushed. And as I was using the sink, I heard it flush yet AGAIN! And, yes, I am sure it was my stall.

So that's six times, folks.

Now I have often thought that the reason for automated toilets was environmental efficiency (well, that and perhaps some germ-avoidance by keeping users from touching handles). If I had the numbers, I'd do a calculation to see how many gallons of water "my" six flushes wasted. Then, consider this: when you multiply six flushes by however many people use all those toilets on an average day, you get the approximate equivalent of replicating the Hoover Dam.

And another g-d thing before I dry my hands off --with paper, please, not electricity-wasting blowers. I don't like Big Brother watching me with all those little electronic sensor eyes when I'm doing personal business, even if the "eyes" are only metaphorical.

But at least the movie was good.