I flush; therefore I am?
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?