By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Last week, while shopping at a department store, I visited the ladies room. It was one of those rare times when the restroom was totally silent and empty, except for me. As I was tucking in my shirt and refastening my belt, I nearly jumped out of my jeans when I heard what sounded like a bomb go off behind me.
I spun around, my hands shooting up instinctively to shield my face from whatever attack was surely coming. I peered through my fingers and realized that the “bomb” was simply the automatic flushing toilet – which, for the record, sounded more like a plane taking off than a toilet flushing.
I fled the stall and headed for the safety of the sink, which saw me coming and started the water for me.
As the mother of three kids, I can certainly appreciate how nice it is to enter a bathroom with no risk of “surprises” that have been left behind. But the sound effects of these smart commercial toilets are enough to shave three good years off a person’s life. Why can’t they program the toilet to give a person some fair warning? Maybe a nice soothing voice that says, “Toilet will flush in 3, 2, 1… whoosh!”
If Siri and Alexa can tell me jokes and give me directions to a city 10 hours away, surely a toilet can warn me that it’s about to do its post-potty business.
Sometimes technology is more creepy than it is startling. If I even think about ordering something online, I suddenly start seeing ads for it everywhere. Even before I’ve officially Googled it, the Internet seems to know I’ve got my eye on a new set of steak knives.
Experts say the Internet knows what I want because of “cookies” – the creepy, digital kind embedded on your computer (not the chocolate-chip, delicious kind). And these cookies know me better than I know myself some days. They know I’m almost out of dog food. They know my kid wants to be a Ghostbuster for Halloween. So they’ll dangle those things in front of me when I’m trying to read the news or check the forecast.
Normally, I don’t mind much because I’m what you’d call an “early adopter.” I’m intrigued by the newest piece of technology and often eager to try it. I’ve never met a new app I didn’t consider downloading, and I’m more than happy to watch the demo video on the newest piece of computer software.
But sometimes technological advancements can be downright “pushy.” My 73-year-old mother has taken a stand against the self-checkout registers at the grocery store. “I won’t do it,” she says adamantly. “If I can take the time to walk all over their huge store and put those groceries in my cart, the least they can do is stand there and put those things in bags and take my hard-earned money. I shouldn’t have to do everything myself.”
I must admit Mom has a point. On quick trips when I just need a handful of items, I’m not opposed to checking myself out at the store. (If you have a 10-year-old kid like I do, the kid will happily volunteer to “beep” items across the scanner and bag them up.)
But when I have a cart that’s more than half full and I’m in a hurry? I’d rather not argue with an automated check-out machine that keeps telling me to put the bananas on the scale. (They’re on the scale, lady! Let’s move along!)
As much as I appreciate the advancements that come with living in a technologically-advanced time, sometimes I miss the simple, old-school things of yesteryear – things like check-out clerks, bag boys, and deciding for myself when it’s time to flush.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com.