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I hate automatic flush toilets.  They couldn’t care less about me.

Returning from vacation, tired, contemplative, feeling a little displaced and between worlds, is no time to have to stare down the maw of a soulless automatic flush toilet.  Especially after having read the complete short story works of Herman Melville, which may, just maybe, had a little influence over me.

I get really self conscious in front of automatic flush toilets.  They’re watching, waiting, judging.

Denver International Airport, however, it its drive towards efficiency (don’t I recall something about a billion dollar baggage system?) left me with little choice when it came time to do my duty (“Doo-tee! Hee hee!”—Milos, Newsradio, 1996) and I had a sudden need for solitude.

So I entered the chamber and looked upon my opponent.

Pale, lit from above, metal and ceramic and dull.  So simple that even in the instruction- and warning-mad U.S. of goddamn A., and don’t you forget it, UBL!, flush toilets have no posted rules, no red pictogram signs, no admonitions designed for the dangerously stupid.

But yet somehow I manage to screw up.

I don’t sit right. Or maybe I poop too quiet or something.

So suddenly, cold water and a sucking sound far too close to the homeland, a whooshing from underneath me like the monolith in 2001 opening up below my ass, and I’m feeling like a baby chicken prematurely hatched from the egg into the cold world.

Why? Why does this happen to me?  It has to be more than poor programming or low-quality sensors.  It ALWAYS happens.  It CAN’T be coincidence.

Is this bathroom torture a profitable side business for airport security firms, with hidden cameras strategically placed for later profit on misleading, raunchy Web sites (“See! college! coeds! squeal! Only! $29.95!”)?

Or perhaps it’s the work of an underground revolution movement of prim French counterinsurgents, set on battling American cultural bathroom imperialism—perhaps this splinter faction of the Resistance is trying to reintroduce the bidet. (But then where are the scrawled slogans carved into stall walls: ” Who smells now, American Pig? Not you!” and “Take Back the Tush” and “U.S. meet your water loo!”)

Is it instead a frigid warning shot across the stern of the good ship Humanity by the emerging sapient technology conquering our society slowly from beneath, and I’m seeing the birth of a machine consciousness with the sense of humor of Adam Sandler. (“You will be eliminated”—Dalek, Dr. Who, 1976)

Or maybe it’s a metaphysical anti-existential repost from the porcelain God—do I not exist? The toilet thinks I am gone, perhaps I AM gone.  I’m trying to sit and think, therefore I am, but if my thinking is interrupted, is my being interrupted as well?  Damn that unblinking electric eye, or do I mean “I.”  Perhaps I’m the ghost in the machine, on the machine.

Another flush! Why? Why?

Shaken, I stir.  Covering up, I leave the stainless steel stall, like a corpse walking back from the shores of the river Lethe, with red-eyed Charon watching from the bank.  Emerging, I see my reflection in the mirrors—see, there I am, a vision in metallic hues under florescent lights.  The sink sprays water on to my hands as I genuflect.  It believes in me.  When I pull the soap lever, does it not squirt? When I lather, does it not foam?  Am I not indeed a man, undeniable, lightly scented?

But now the toilet is quiet and flushes no more.



 
 

 

Previous entry:
Overheard on a Plane: Stupid People

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Why I’m in Montana

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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