The Future- If You Dare
Remote control toilets and doorbells with facial recognition. Be afraid.
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
-John F. Kennedy
I am nearly nodding off, watching the news on my new 60-inch flat-screen TV when the doorbell rings. I hunt for the switch on my electric tilt-back padded easy chair. I eventually find it. Slowly, the chair goes back to upright so I can now get out. Then I go to the shelf that holds the twenty-seven remotes I have to control all the TV and audio devices and lights and blinds and gas fireplaces. I find the one that looks like a ‘mute’ button. The blinds shut. Nope- not that one. I keep looking. I finally find the remote that mutes the TV. It feels like that took some minutes to accomplish. I hope whoever rang my bell is still there. What if it were the sweepstakes folks and they were wanting to hand me a check the size of a sheet of plywood?
Sometimes I don’t even get up from my electric chair. I have a fancy doorbell that when pushed tells my occasionally unintelligent smartphone that someone is at my door. It’s so amazing when working because it will show me who is standing at my front door without me having to get up. In brilliant color video! And with sound! I can even speak to it. So I can tell someone at my door to buzz off or leave the package or I’m calling the police or I’ve moved or I’ll be there in 10 or so minutes after I mute the damn TV. I can do that from my easy chair, my favorite coffee shop, or Prague. Of course, all this incredible stuff only works if the smartphone is in one of my pockets. Today, it’s on the table in the dining room.
Just a warning, but we ain’t seen nothing yet in front door technology. I’ve heard that those WizKids from Technoidia are working on facial recognition so whoever is standing outside your door can be identified and announced before you even find the button on your electric chair. Very clever, really.
As soon as the face standing at my front door is recognized from the faces of the other seven billion people in the global database, I’ll hear “Susan Tracy is at your door. Say ‘more info’ if you would like a bio on Susan Tracy.”
“Susan Tracy is currently a mail person for United States Postal Service. For a sexual history, please say ‘sexual history.’”
“Susan Tracy is gender fluid and will respond to a variety of pronouns including ‘hey-you.”
I decide I don’t need to know anything else and tell the system to shut up.
I can’t wait for facial recognition. Having enjoyed pulling a practical prank or two when younger, I believe I’ll find an old Richard Nixon face mask gathering dust in the attic. I’ll wait until dark and go over to my neighbor Jack’s house as president Richard Nixon. I’ll hit the doorbell, and as the camera records Tricky Dick’s face, Jack will soon hear who is standing at his door. I hope he’s sitting down.
“Richard Millhouse Nixon is at your door. Say ‘more info’ if you would like to hear a bio on Richard Millhouse Nixon.” Now Jack will either be stunned and fall out of his chair, or he’s like me and will want to hear the bio. “Richard Millhouse Nixon is a former president of the United States. His term was from January 20, 1969, through August 9, 1974. He is deceased. For a sexual history, please say ‘sexual history.’”
My joke will only work with early versions. Eventually, version 2.0 will be able to recognize a real face from a mask. It will now tell Jack, “A masked individual of unknown sexual orientation is standing at your door. The mask is that of a male. The unknown potential assailant likely identifies as a male. I suggest you either call 911, or if you have a firearm, be prepared to defend yourself.”
My last words as I lie dying from a gunshot wound are, “Hey, Jack, it’s me, your neighbor.”
With version 2.0, some experts are warning that Halloween could break the Internet. Millions of database lookups and all the shootings that follow could finally kill Halloween, to say nothing of all the lost children.
Someday, I’ll write a poem.
One grandkid dressed as Fred Astair
Another as a big growling grizzly bear
Grandpa too lazy to get up from his chair
Tells Grandma to shoot the pair
Somewhere in my dust heap of books is one with the title of Dress for Success. The author was making the strong suggestion that what you wear defines you and will either contribute to your success as defined by your ability to accumulate money and things or keep you stuck in the molasses of mediocrity. The book was a big success.
But it flew in the face of something I thought I had learned in the fifth grade when I entered my very first ‘what is philosophy?’ stage. In my youthful exuberance, I expressed my first notable expression of self by declaring on a notebook in big bold lettering that ‘You are what you think.’ I must have perused some Buddha and maybe read some of Napoleon’s quotes. I don’t recall. I might have even read Ralph Waldo Emerson or some verse in Proverbs suggesting something similar. I had not yet crawled my way through Nietzsche, Engels, or Marx. My teacher walked by and stopped. He read my quote and then looked down at me with a raised eyebrow and asked, “Is that what you believe?”
That very same teacher could fling a piece of chalk with the accuracy of a minor league pitcher and often would. With the slightest of provocations, such as feeling a warm spitball hit the back of his neck while writing on the blackboard, he’d swing around in one smooth continuous motion and fling his chalk with velocity just shy of breaking the sound barrier. Now if you were the spitballer, you had a book ready to defend against the counterattack. But if you were unaware or sitting in the back rows and his throw was off, you could likely get hit with the chalk and possibly hurt. I think he thought himself a baseball pitcher. I thought myself a spitball flicking machine. You are what you think. Someday, I’ll write a poem.
He was my favorite teach
when writing on the wall
The neck is what I seek
To nail him with a spitball
I recently read his obituary. He deserved better of me.
Night approaches, sending me into the daily ritual of finding the remote for the window blinds. It’s always this time of the day that I think about creating a filing system for all my remote controls. I find the remote, shut the blinds, and soon forget about the filing system until tomorrow same time.
I’ve read about a new toilet that comes with a remote. Pretty fancy device. It will flush, preflush, raise the seat, lower the seat, light the seat, and heat the seat. It has a patent-pending toilet paper auto wipe feature that will take care of that business when it senses that you have completed your business. It will play music, video, and gently vibrate if you think that might help. It has sidearms, a footstool, and an Internet-connected tablet on a flexible arm. It will disinfect, smell pretty, and can be controlled and set up with a smartphone even if you’re in Prague, protected by your password and any hacker who steals your password.
Before I plunk down the $1800 they want for this throne and add the twenty-eighth remote to my collection, I download the app on my smartphone so I can get an idea of how it operates.
The app is nicely organized into multiple functions and menus. If I can preplan my toilet excursions, I can set into motion a series of activities the toilet will start automatically before I arrive. Like having your very own water closet maitre ‘d. It will preflush, start the seat heater, raise or lower the seat based on what I entered as to my intentions. It will disinfect the bowl turning the water blue, turn the rope lighting on under the lid and around the bottom, activate the perfume mister, make an Internet connection, and vibrate my phone when all is ready. This is all done in just two minutes. Cool. Now if you’ve always been an impulsive toilet user, you’ll have to get used to the short delay.
Did I mention that it has a ‘share’ feature? Of course, it does. I can invite family and friends to be texted or emailed anytime I mount the throne. Fortunately, I don’t see a feature that suggests a camera or microphone. That would be creepy.
What’s cool is that there is nothing to do when you’re done other than to wait for the auto wipe feature to complete. The lights blink and the seat vibrates, signaling you to stand up. It flushes, turns off the lights and heaters, fumigates the toilet, and turns the room fan on to just the right speed based on sensitive sensors able to detect room odor. I’m almost ready to buy this puppy. I’ve worked hard all my life. I deserve a throne fit for a king. I’m just a little skeptical about the auto wipe feature.
I continue with all the features. I notice the ‘vibrate’ mode, which seems curious to me. It goes on to explain that the toilet will vibrate from gently to vigorously depending on your selection. There’s a link to some research website that explains that those who suffer from chronic constipation benefit from a toilet that vibrates. Researchers caught on to the connection when interviewing constipated travelers coming off international flights. Nearly 80 percent reported relief while sitting on the stainless steel toilet while traveling 519 nautical miles an hour, often to just a bit of turbulence. Some travelers reporting the connection timed their toilet needs to when the pilot turned on the ‘Seat Belt’ sign because of turbulence. The bumpier the ride, the better. At the very bottom, I read that this product has been approved by the National Gastroenterologist Society. That seals the deal.
The company’s website says I can’t buy this toilet online. They have dealers all over the world who have stores and demonstration booths. That makes perfect sense. Try it before you buy it.
The website dealer finder shows that we have a dealer in our town, which surprises and somewhat disappoints me. I possibly would have liked to own a dealership. I could nearly see myself selling toilets for the rest of my life, especially one like this.
So I travel to the address listed, which happens to be right next to a Ford auto dealership. I park at the car dealership and pretend to look at a car or two before I mosy over to the toilet dealer. I’m not certain I want my neighbors to see me parked in front of a toilet store. Could start a rumor although I don’t know what kind.
It’s a beautiful, well-lit store with seating areas, a kids’ play area, and colorful brochures on the wall. Several very well-dressed sales folk are milling around, as are some customers. Signs mounted to the ceiling with strings dangle this offer and that offer. One can even buy their new throne on credit with 0 percent interest. In the middle, displayed like the new Ford cars next door, are various models in a variety of colors and design schemes. There is even one designed to look good in an old Tudor house and another ultra-modern slick. Very cool. So I look around like I’m shopping and kicking toilet seats.
An extraordinarily well-dressed gentleman approaches me. He’s a domestic gastroenterologist-certified expert, I learn later, having earned his DGC from a mail-order school. His finely tailored suit with a red power tie fits someone refined and well-educated. He shakes my hand vigorously, hands me his business card, and asks if there is anything I need help with. I glance at his card, and sure enough, his name, nicely printed in raised ink, is Blake Buttz, DGC. Systems Sales Engineer. You are what you think.
“Well, Mr. Buttz, I’m intrigued by your product. I’ve read a bunch already, and I guess I just wanted to see one,” I start.
“Excellent,” he responds as he leads me over to his office. “Let’s start with a needs assessment.”
“Oh, I’m not certain that’s necessary, Mr. Buttz. I need a toilet. You and I are the same that way,” I counter. “I just would like to see one work. ‘Seeing is believing’ as the cliché goes huh Mr. Buttz? Based on how well you are dressed, Mr. Buttz, you must be very successful selling toilets.”
“Of course,” he chuckles, appreciating the compliment. “I used to work at the Ford store next door.”
“You know, that does not surprise me. A move up, huh?” I ask.
We alter our course toward the rear of the showroom. “So what’s it going to take to get you into one of these?” asks Blake, borrowing a phrase he learned from years of selling cars.
“A strong urge,” I respond. He looks at me blankly. “I’m alright for today, but with tomorrow comes new urges, Mr. Buttz.”
“Well, it takes up to two months to get these units from the factory in Germany and installed,” he counters, still serious.
“Well, I’m not certain I can put off my urges that long,” I smirk.
Blake is uncertain if he’s got a live fish on the hook or a nutjob.
Along the back wall are several doors that I presume lead to actually plumbed toilets that prospects can take for a ‘test’ drive, so to speak. A line of maybe four or five are waiting in a queue. I stop and tell Mr. Buttz that I would just like to watch people exit for a few minutes. Sometimes, just watching people after they’ve experienced something can provide some valuable insights.
Unless you’ve read the brochure and have a complete understanding of how the product works, the experience of actually using this toilet could startle some. And that is what happened. There are warning signs telling of startling sensations that the patent-pending auto wipe function could give you, but not everyone actually reads warning signs. As in an amusement park where no one reads the warning sign before climbing aboard the Swing Of Terror amusement ride? Especially the part that warns of being vomited on.
The middle door opens, and a guy comes out with a very intrigued smile on his face. He keeps checking to make sure his fly is zippered. Maybe he just feels self-conscious. Next, a woman carefully opens the door to make sure it is the exit. She keeps shaking her head back and forth until she seeks the comfort of her husband. Another emerges with a broad smile, raising her two thumbs up.
I am just about to get into the queue when a woman bursts through the exit screaming. She heads straight for her car, all the while crying hysterically. Something must have happened she was not expecting. I suspect the patent-pending auto wipe function had something to do with that. I leave too. But I have to admit that vibrate feature sounded cool.
Someday, I’ll write a poem.
I am a King without a Throne
Some Porcelain to Call My Own
A place to Contemplate and Think
A Remote to Remove the…