On any given day, there are countless reminders that I am an old person. Not least of which is the pain in my lower back when I uncurl my body from the driver’s seat of my car. There is also the fact that I now prefer to sit when putting on my panties, for fear that this will be the morning when my balance will fail me as I stand on one leg in order to insert the other leg into the proper hole.
When I ask for a senior ticket on the commuter train the conductor no longer questions my veracity. And did I know that Drake had a No. 1 single hit on the Billboard chart? So did Pink. And what was I doing when pop stars began economizing on names?
I’ve gotten somewhat used to the little age memos that life sends me on a daily basis. But every once in a while, I’m startled by the totally unexpected. Like checking into a hotel room and having the sensation that I’ve entered another galaxy.
It was a simple overnight stay at a hotel in New York. A hotel that I’ve always regarded as rather old world and traditional, which was part of its charm. So you can imagine my surprise when I put the key, excuse me, key card, in the door, and walked into what could have been a movie set for Star Trek: Spock Takes A Vacation.
Forget about comfortable, old world charm. This was 21st century millennial. The entrance area was black and glossy. And very dark. My husband (yes, he was there, too) and I groped the walls to find a light switch, which was a tactilely challenging activity. The familiar toggle or rocker was nowhere to be found.
Finally the groping yielded an accidental result and an overhead light magically and gradually revealed a shiny black ceiling, and an equally shiny black floor. Everything was black, and shiny. And what wasn’t black was gray. I guess Mr. Spock finds color offensive.
This was a room that should have come with an instruction booklet. At least for people born way before there was a Drake or a Pink. Every aspect of it was a technological wonder: a TV that rose from the foot of the bed, lights hidden in baseboards that magically sensed your approach and departure, and window shades that had no apparent means of being lowered.
This was particularly disturbing, as bedtime was approaching. Again, we groped the walls for a control mechanism with no immediate success. “What if I stand in the middle of the room, and recite Abracadabra,” I suggested. “Or if that doesn’t work, we could try the Sesame command.”
Admittedly, I felt like an idiot. Should a hotel room make you feel like you’ve been transported from a nursing home into the future? We never did quite master the numerous functions of the panel that controlled the overhead lights. Fortunately, by some miracle, there was a lamp with a pull chain.
But the piece de resistance, the creme de la creme , the icing on the cake, or whatever your favorite euphemism is for over the top, was to be discovered in the bathroom. That was where I encountered the Smart Toilet.
I had heard about these clever potties, but never met one face-to-face, or should I say butt to seat. I entered the bathroom and Mr. Toilet uncannily knew that I was there. He automatically raised his seat cover, as if inviting me to sit. I admit I was somewhat hesitant upon noticing that the toilet was actually plugged into an electrical outlet. I imagined the headline: Lady Fried While Emptying Her Bladder.
But sit I did. On a seat that was heated. It’s 82 degrees outside. Is this really necessary? Mr. Toilet knew I was sitting on it, and all systems were activated. When the business was done, he flushed himself and lowered the lid. What? No robotic arm to tear the toilet paper and finish the job?
Should I thank him, I wondered? Or maybe leave a tip like you do for a matron in a public restroom? It’s a sad day when a toilet can make one feel inept.
I have to say that after a while, Mr. Toilet became very annoying. His constant saluting was uncalled for. “Shut your maw, you stupid toilet. I came in to brush my teeth.” Fancy that. Now I was talking to the toilet.
I’m home now in the sanctity of my own house. I’m turning lights off and on with my toggle switch just because I can.
And I’m left to ponder. Of all possible inventions, did the world really need a self-operating electric toilet? But perhaps I am being more than a bit behind the times. I’m sure there were plenty of people who thought outhouses were perfectly sufficient.
Nevertheless, owning one of these babies is not high on my list of home improvements. I never regarded the manual raising and lowering of a toilet seat lid as a burden one must bear, second only to drawing water from a well and carrying it up a hill in a wooden bucket.
But I shouldn’t sell the inventor short. Perhaps he or she had found the solution to an age-old dilemma that has plagued dual-gender households for centuries. Let’s leave it to Mr. Toilet to determine the proper position of the seat.