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I flush; therefore I am?

September 23, 2009

The old joke goes that Rene Descartes was at a party when someone asked him if he’d like another beer. Descartes said, “I don’t think so.” Then he disappeared.

That somewhat snobby joke assumes you know that Rene Descartes is the philospher who said, “I think; therefore I am.” Some have said that Descartes’ quote holds the essence of existentialism, which leads with complete logic to my current existential crisis: If automatic bathroom fixtures do not work for me, do I exist?

I suppose that question goes along with another famous philosophic question: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear, does it make a sound? Being a religious person, my answer to that question has always been, “Of course. God is everywhere; therefore, Someone is always there to hear.”

But if a bathroom fixture does not work, and somebody (me) is actually standing (or sitting) there in front of it (or on it), will God intervene and turn it on? Apparently not; at least not in my case. To put a better face on it, perhaps the Holy Spirit is simply too ethereal to trip the fixtures.

Which leads me to another conculsion: Perhaps I’m also too ethereal to trip them. The word “ethereal” brings up visions of goodness and light, but it is not a compliment when you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal disease because one definition of  “ethereal” is “of heaven,” or, simply put, “dead.” It makes you wonder if you’re beginning to cross to the other side and the electric eye is giving you your first hint.

A couple of days ago I was at my son’s school for curriculum night. Curriculum night was more than 30 minutes long, so the event for me included a trip to the women’s room, which is fully automatic. As usual, I had to push the button to force the automatic flush to do its thing — particularly disturbing since the trigger for the automatic flush is supposed to be the movement of the most substantial (meaning “least ethereal”) part of me. But there are no witnesses in the stalls and the automatic toilets at least have that button to make them work, so that wasn’t the worst part.

The worst part was trying to get the water to work in the sink, which involved waving my hands about in a futile attempt to trigger the automatic faucet so I could wash the non-ethereal foam soap off my apparently ethereal little hands. No luck. A woman next to me said, “Sometimes there’s a delay.” So I waved and waited. Still no luck. When she left her sink I rinsed with the water her non-ethereal hands had left running.

If nobody is around to leave the water running for me, I have attempted something of a rain dance to trigger automatic faucets. This involves much waving of hands and leaping about. This method is often unsuccessful and that insult is made worse by the danger of being discovered by a sudden walk-in or by a stray hideway in a stall.

As for the paper towel dispensers that refuse to spew their contents, I just wipe my hands on my clothes, practical woman that I am. In fact, this is what I think the greatest of all modern philsophers — Popeye — would do in the same circumstances, practical man that he is. Either that, or he’d just punch the darned bathroom fixtures and get on with his life. So,  I think I’ll just leave Rene Descartes to think his way into existence, go along with Popeye who famously said, “I yam what I yam,” and get on with my life. After all, who is more ethereal than a cartoon character?

17 Comments leave one →
  1. September 24, 2009 8:20 am

    Brilliant bit of writing! I’m cracking up!!
    On our recent trip to California, I ended up (pun intended) on an auto-potty that must have yearned to be a bidet. It flushed when I went to wipe! I didn’t find myself feeling cleansed, though. Good thing the sink worked, and they had plenty of soap.

    • Jill permalink
      September 24, 2009 10:33 am

      You must really be of this world. Maybe it’s a new super power. Send me some!

      • September 24, 2009 12:08 pm

        Sending you solid thoughts. 🙂

      • September 24, 2009 12:21 pm

        Did you check to see if you’ve turned off your cloaking device?

      • Jill permalink
        September 24, 2009 12:24 pm

        Cloaking device? Darn! I always forget about that thing.

  2. September 24, 2009 9:48 am

    When I think ethereal I think Ethernet, my thought is that your wi-fi card has lost signal. It could be a driver issue, the gamma knife may have corrupted something and the driver is having problems adjusting.
    It could also be a cabling issue, try jiggling the cable and see if things work sporadically, although I get the impression you may have tried that already.
    It is possible the chemo has eaten through some cables, we could try re-cabling, or at least putting on some new connectors on the end of the current cables, that would cut down on troubleshooting time.
    I highly recommend not using somebody else’s wireless connection as you never know where it has been.

    Or, you could just rub your hands together for a moment, Mr. Miyagi style, or possibly Mr. Burns style, whichever mood you are in.


    • Jill permalink
      September 24, 2009 10:32 am

      Hilarious! And a great idea. Spoken like a true system administrator. I will give all those a try, except the sharing thingy. Won’t do that!

      • September 24, 2009 12:03 pm

        I work with wires all day, too, the electronic money kind, though. Another electronic process I monitor daily is a system called “Image Positive Pay”, in which our software sends a batch each night to the bank with a list of checks that we issued that day. This is a fraud-prevention measure. When checks are presented to the bank for negotiation, they compare them to our batch, called an “Image Notice”. If a check comes through, and the bank can’t find it in one of our batches, I get a message, “Image Notice Not Received”, or INNR. I’m afraid it sounds like the electronic bathroom fixtures have not received your image notice! 🙂

      • Jill permalink
        September 24, 2009 12:24 pm

        Or should I say “IT Professional”? What is your job title these days???

  3. Lisa permalink
    September 24, 2009 11:26 am

    I have found that my son can figure out automated bathroom fixtures faster then I (which I think says alot about me, since he is a creature of must have the same routine). I, at first viewed it as a sign of getting old – darn blasted technology anyhow 😉

    What I truly hate.. is you never know they are there, so then I become my Mom… I search for a lever, handle, anything that I have control of and I get to make happen. Then it will hit me, this is yet another thing in life that I do not have any control over. And boy I hope it works out okay…

    So since I never know they are there, usually have one million other things on my mind and yes I’m easily impulsive I’ve realized. I tend to do a really stupid thing, which is place my purse on the sink and resultant water turns on for the purse. Now if I were to put my hands under it or try to flush (thank God I don’t put my purse on the toilet though.. yuck), alas bet it wouldn’t work for me.

    But, a purse is easily registered and for that reason mine is always shiny and clean. Which is also about the point I turn practical like you and wipe my hands on my slacks, before I can also mis-use the automated hand dryer and feel like a total failure.

    Feel better *G* It certainly isn’t just you. I loved the piece and enjoyed the wonderful laugh. Continued great thoughts and prayers heading your way!

    • Jill permalink
      September 24, 2009 11:54 am

      Ah! The old purse on the counter trick. Why didn’t I think of that. My purse has more existence than I do in the time-space continuum, or something like that. And yes, I’m glad it’s not just me!

      • Annette permalink
        September 24, 2009 2:11 pm

        I too have a purse that’s shiny clean on the sides of its big clunky self. And there’s always elbows or knees on the counter too!

  4. Lisa permalink
    September 24, 2009 5:57 pm

    Annette, reminds me of something.. next time I should leave my purse open, then it will also be clean inside as well. See, me and my impulsiveness! I didn’t realize I could clean the whole darn thing that way.

  5. September 24, 2009 7:48 pm

    The answer is simple, train Q to flush the toilet for you.
    A few well placed cookies would have her happily flushing toilets and turning on sinks from here to L.A.

    Or you could ask the tidy bowl man…

    Also sounds like a new product idea for Ron Popeil…New from RonCo the automatic toilet clapper…

    • Jill permalink
      September 24, 2009 8:09 pm

      Q is a girl, so she could come in the restroom with me. Maybe I can train her as a special kind of therapy dog.

      I think you should propose that to Ron Popeil. I can’t wait to see the commercials.

  6. Lisa Welch permalink
    September 25, 2009 4:44 pm

    You are so funny! I find that I alternate between being ethereal myself, or being something else, entirely, I guess, when the mechanism goes crazy and flushes repeatedly while I’m still there. The spray…yuck, yuck, icky, ooh!

    Thinking about you today…did you have another dose of your cure?

  7. Maria Murray permalink
    September 28, 2009 4:51 pm

    If it helps at all, I have the same problem though no ethereal qualities. I just can’t ever get those things to work – they even work for my tiny 83 pound daughter, but not me. I don’t even bother anymore – I go straight for the button and just carry Purell around with me. At least I can kill the germs, even if I can’t run the water!!

    I hope you’re feeling better. Justin’s finished his first week at Dartmouth and so far, so good. He had some very humorous takes on his classes – ala Justin. Take care of yourself – we’re thinking of you. ~ Maria

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