Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for advances in technology. I'm glad there's medical technology that saves people from premature death, I'm glad there's the internet so I can play awesome Thor games (since I still haven't gotten around to sculpting my body into Thor shape), and I'm glad there's cell phones so I can play Sudoku puzzles while I'm donating plasma or waiting in a line. But there seems to be an influx of technological advances that are completely unnecessary. A lot of these so-called 'conveniences' seem to exist as part of a grand scam to get people to spend more money, especially on electricity, batteries, and constant replacements for crap that's outdated four and a half seconds after purchase. And thus, the birth of an occasional series of entries that I will call "Too Much Technology".
I am a consumer. I consume things and then I want more things to consume. Because of this, I'm firmly stuck as a cog in the capitalist machine, and I often make trips to various shopping centers and big box conglomerate misery stores. I hate it, but it's part of my reality. Most of these stores have automatic doors that hum and sometimes squeak open for me as I approach them. Usually I opt to use the non-automatic (retro) doors that I have to push or pull open myself, if the store even has them. Exceptions include when I'm wearing shoes that make me get shocked a lot or when I'm trying to impress a small child or an Encino Man by pretending I have telekinesis that's limited to opening doors. Since I live in the middle of nowhere, the long drive to such stores usually necessitates that my first stop after entering the building is the bathroom. And this is where I encounter bullshit technology.
It seems that most large establishments have jumped on the bandwagon of automated bathroom devices. If only they'd install robot arms that wipe your ass in those dreaded scenarios where you have no choice but to poop in a public restroom, then we'd be getting somewhere as a society! Actually, I have no problem with (and am really quite fond of) the automatic flusher system. It's really a beautiful invention, saving the rest of us from those gross assholes who can't flush when they're done making boom-boom. You step away from the urinal or toilet, and whoosh! The thing flushes itself so you don't have to put your hand on a yucky lever. This technology is useful, and I appreciate it, even if it sometimes tricks me into thinking I'm a ghost by randomly flushing while I'm still standing there. But my appreciation for automatic bathroom gadgetry ends there.
From the stall I make my way to the sink where I become involved in a silent-movie-like routine. The faucets are also automatic, you see, and they're supposed to turn on when I put my hands under them. The first one often doesn't respond, so I move to the next. This one also gives me no water, and just when I'm about to give up, the first one suddenly splashes to life! Yes! But by the time I move back to it (which takes about one second), it turns off. Then the second one turns on, and the comedy routine is in full swing.
I guess the idea behind this technology is to prevent the asshole who doesn't flush from also being the asshole who turns on the sink (to pretend he's washing his hands by holding them in the water for a millisecond) and then walking away without bothering to exert the energy required to turn the faucet back off. Being a responsible sink-user, however, I find myself inconvenienced by this 'convenient' invention. And what's worse, I think I actually waste more water doing "The Faucet Shuffle" than I would by just washing my hands in an old-fashioned sink. I've never experienced perfect timing in which the water shuts off just as I'm finished cleaning my mitts. The water is always still flowing as I walk to the next automated device.
Now that my hands are clean and moist, I need to unmoisten them so I'm not a guy with wet hands when I leave the restroom. I never trust a guy with wet hands, and you shouldn't either! In the olden days (a few years ago), it was simple. You walked up to the paper towel dispenser, took how much towel you needed, used it, and tossed it in the trash. (Unless you're the aforementioned bathroom asshole, in which case you'd chuck it on the floor kinda near the trash.) Now we have the amazing technology of the "motion activated!!!" paper towel machine. I'm not sure why these machines often display a label proudly proclaiming that they're motion activated, because the old ones were too. You moved your arm in an up-and-down motion to work the mechanism that dispensed the towels. If you find yourself encountering a newfangled dispenser, you have to stand there and wave at it like a jackass who thinks that restroom machinery has feelings.
Once the machine registers your command, it shoots out a sheet of paper towel. Here again is where I find myself in a situation where I'm forced to waste resources. With a manual dispenser I typically use a piece of paper towel that is about the size of one and a half of the sheets that you get from the automatic types. Since one sheet from the "motion activated!!!" dispensers doesn't completely dry my hands, I have to use two sheets. I know that probably doesn't seem like a big deal, but I'm sure that all the half-sheets of paper towel I throw out in a year add up to quite a bit, and I'm probably not the only one who reluctantly uses more than they need. So for the sake of a 'convenience' that usually takes longer than just manually pumping out the towel yourself, all the more garbage is being shipped off to the ever-growing landfills.
The automated toilet flushing is a good thing, a technology that makes up for the fact that a lot of humans are disgusting slobs. But the automatic sinks and towel dispensers cross the line from useful advances to items that seem to exist just so people have to use more electricity. Does the amount of water and paper towel supposedly saved really balance out when compared to the electricity that gets wasted by devices that are perpetually using power, waiting for the next consumer to give them a friendly wave to coax them into activating objects we are perfectly capable of operating manually? I know I've come across at least a few of these automatic people detectors that didn't work at all, and I'll bet they're not cheap to replace, especially if the company splurges on one that has a better track record of not tricking people into thinking they're ghosts.
Too much technology! Adding unnecessary whirrs and hums to the cacophony of noise that already existed (toilets flushing, stall locks clicking, that guy who softly sings in there for some reason that I'm not interested in delving into). I'm just glad I'm writing this at home, because I can feel something big coming down the pipeline, and I prefer to use my own do-it-yourself bathroom.