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Thursday, October 13, 2005

HONK IF YOU LOVE TECHNOLOGY

Back to important things like the restroom situation at work. I walked in on Monday to do my usual business. After two cups of coffee and a 20 mile commute, you can guess where my priorities lie when I arrive on the 14th floor. Our one men's room boasts two urinals, identical except that one is about a foot and a half higher than the other, and two stalls, identical except that one is about two feet wider than the other. Folks, I'm a stall man. I take privacy wherever I can. Brotherhood is all good and well but when I'm holding mine and you're holding yours, I prefer a metal door with a little dead bolt between us, thank you very much.

This morning it was business as usual for Tom for L.A. Off the elevator, past the reception desk, into the restroom and into the stall. I did my business and reached for the flush handle as I always do – with my left foot. But as my Doc Marten approached the chrome, what can only be described as a defensive honking reverberated off the tiles. It sounded remarkably like a Canada goose like we used to have back in New England. They were everywhere. Golf courses, industrial parks, softball fields. One of the few things I liked about Waltham was a walkway that stretched alongside the Charles River. From the north side looking east there was a terrific view of the deep red brick of the old Waltham Watch Company Building. At certain times of the year, often after new goslings had hatched, tons of Canada geese would make the banks between the walkway and the river their home. A goose will let you get pretty close but if you get too close, it will either put its head down to the ground and hiss like a cat or it will rise up, flap its wings and honk. When this would happen to me on the banks of the Charles, I would recoil in fear much like I did when this toilet honked at me at work.

The regular chrome handle has been replaced by an automatic fllushing system. An electronic sensor with a ominous black eye does the required sensing. It looks like a shark's eye, no depth, no soul behind it. I suppose I should be grateful that I no longer need to worry about encountering other people's specimens when I enter the stall, but the truth is I feel like some element of power has been taken away from me. The bastards, whoever they are, have taken another piece of personal control away from me. I no longer own my own flush. The almighty and all-powerful sensor does. Yet another machine has been deposited in my world for my own good, no doubt. Freed from the shackles of having to expend my limited brain power on remembering to flush, now I can focus on more important things, like productivity I suppose. Maybe someday they'll outfit cubicles with little bathroom stalls so we can just keep on working through it all.

[Note: Associate co-collegue Kevin is convinced that the black eye actually houses a camera and that our peeing is being monitored.]

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