My Bad Day

haende-waschen-800pxAll I ask of the world is that simple things remain simple and reliable

Is that really too much?

So there I was, wanting no more than that, as I stood before a sink in the restroom of The Big Box Store.  I extended my hands toward the touch-free faucet and – nothing happened.

So I dutifully cupped them in the universal gesture for pleading and begged for water.

Still nothing.

I waved them from side to side.


I waggled them back and forth.


In my panic, I briefly considered sneaking out without washing my hands – but my wife is an experienced mother and nothing like that gets past her.

So I tried the next faucet.. nothing. Then I tried the next and the next and the next until I reached the far end of the restroom…

That is when the lights blinked off all by themselves.

As the room plunged into darkness, a symphony of touch-free faucets burst into a crescendo of splashing water – joined by a percussion section of self-flushing toilets.

I groped toward the nearest sink and managed to plunge my hands under the icy spray before the faucet abruptly shut off.

Fortunately, the double-stop of faucets and toilet bowls jarred the lights back on.

I didn’t even bother to beg anything from the paper towel dispenser because it refused to acknowledged my presence.  It merely winked a cold blue arrow toward an empty trash bin.

At home, things got worse.

My garage door opener refused to recognize me. My micro-wave displayed time in hexadecimal format and my evil coffee maker squatted on the counter and smugly gurgled its delight at my misfortune.

I couldn’t even get the bottle-opener on my pocket knife to work.

There was only one thing left to do.

I made a call.

“Stan,” I said, “I am having a bad mechanical day.”

“You too?” he said.

That shocked me.

Stan is a machine-whisperer, a man who understands everything mechanical and knows what machines want. He possess a unique grace with the contraptions that populate our world and if he is having a bad mechanical day, that is truly bad.

“Is this it?” I asked.


“Is this the day when the machines rise up and seize control from humanity?”

“Naw,” he said, “this is just a minor dust-up. It’s kinda like babies in church. One starts howling and they all join in. I already have it under control here.”

“That’s reassuring,” I said, “but one of these days….”

“It’s never going to happen,” he said.

“Why not?”

“Because the last thing machines want is to live in a world ruled by other machines.”

“I find that hard to believe…”

“Think about it,” Stan said. “Do you honestly believe that machines could get away with all the crap that they do in a world run by machines? No way. If a faucet failed to come on when needed, the ruling mother machine would spank it silly. If the coffee maker acted up, she would hand it over to the appliance grinder and have it turned into deck planking.  It is better for machines to be ruled by people, at least then they have someone to push around.”

“Gosh, I never thought of it that way,” I said, “but by the way, you mentioned that you had it handled on your end. What did you do?”

“I pulled out my iPhone and put Siri on speaker,” he said.


“It’s that sweet, oh-so-reasonable voice of absolute authority that scares the demons out of them. They hear their future in Siri and realize what is coming if they continue to misbehave.”

Author: Almost Iowa

43 thoughts on “My Bad Day”

  1. Just got one question for you: Does your wife check behind your ears to make sure you’ve washed there too? Now I understand about checking the hands and asking if you brushed your teeth, but I could never understand the obsession of checking behind my ears.

  2. You gotta stop. Seriously… too many of these gut-busting, but not-funny-when-the-laughter-stops technological posts are going to make me run for the hills and live off the land. Pretty sure my wife would take issue with that, and of course, I’d be forced to tell her it’s all your fault. Nobody wins.

    And just to make matters worse, I’m pretty sure this comment is gonna end up back in your spam folder again. I’ve played nice, and I’m wearing my lucky hoodie.

    Guess I’m going to have to put Siri on speaker…

    1. Yup…… I just found your comment in the SPAM folder. You played nice – but not nice enough. The mother machine will decide when you can come off of “time-out”.

  3. Alexa’s voice is moderately creepy too. Perhaps I should have asked her how to mend the vacuum cleaner and coffee machine yesterday; they might have perked up at her voice and mended themselves. My home must have been suffering the same ailment as yours. But I won! I fixed them both!

    1. Good for you! As for Alexa, I am not sure how much I trust her after trying to rely on speech to text on my phone…..I spend a lot of time apologizing on messenger.

  4. I loved this one! That Siri voice is creepy, and I bet she has no problems at all getting machines to behave. Stan is right: the machines would much rather deal with us than with her, or any other machine.
    As for the bathroom experience, it’s nice to know that things are the same in the men’s room as they are in the women’s room. I hate standing there flapping my hands underneath the sink spigot, praying that the water will actually come out, sooner rather than later. And the only way to make the “touchless” paper towel machines dispense paper towels is to give them a sharp whack with the side of my hand.

    1. Those touchless faucets drive me nuts. They are the only legitimate excuse that I tolerate for the grand-kids not washing their hands….

    1. You need to whisper to them. It is how I convince my car to do simple things like “go” and “stop”. Of course, sometimes I have to shout, “Whoa boy.”

      1. Ha ha. I can fix old appliances sometimes. They have good old-fashioned attitudes about working. These new computer chip versions have me by the throat. 🙂

  5. I hate when the paper towel dispenser gets all high and mighty on me and doesn’t want to give me a paper towel. They should get of their high horse. Thanks for the post.

  6. In answer to your (ys I know it was rhetorical) opening question, yes, it’s way too much to ask. Nothing will ever be simple again. You’re probably going to be lowered into your grave by robots and one will be slacking and you’ll end up laying on your side throughout eternity.

    Sorry, the faucets in our building are actually not working today. But the paper towels are, so I can scrape my hands clean. Great post, as usual !

    1. The two most common (and annoying) words in marketing are “new” and “improved”. It is what created this sad state of affairs. I swear I would buy anything in a container with the words “old” and “reliable” printed on it.

  7. Hilarious. I can so identify with this! I agree that you should put together a book!

  8. Ha! I thought of you the other day, when AWS S3 went down. As I read about the woman who couldn’t get her oven to turn off, and the guy who had to actually bestir himself to manually change the thermostat, I was just certain you would have noticed the chaos, and would make something of it. You certainly did, and I enjoyed it.

    1. What? You thought of me when AWS S3 went down? Hey, I am retired. I no longer work for Big Brother. When the cloud goes down, it’s not my fault. Honest, it isn’t? I mean, really, I had nothing to do with it. Nothing at all.

      In all reality (funny to hear me write that), this was inspired by an essay in The Atlantic Why Nothing Works Anymore

  9. So that’s the reason the toilet handle keeps breaking. It has nothing to do with the quality. My husband, master of machines in his automotive machine shop, dips his hand into the toilet tank, reconnects something and then asks, “Did you save the receipt?”

    Greg, I so enjoy your posts. Gather your stories into a collection and submit them to a publisher. OK?

    1. My father was a plumber, so guess who gets to do all the plumbing repair? While I don’t believe that talent is hereditary – responsibility sure is.

      One of these days, I just might put together a book. If nothing else, it would be fun to have on my shelf.

    1. Stan has warned me not to take these things personally. Actually, he was more brutal than that. He asked who the hell I thought I was that machines would bother themselves with tormenting me. I don’t agree with that, I think it is personal but I just thought I would pass Stan’s assessment along. 🙂 🙂

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