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After filling the tank with petrol on Saturday, I paid the fifty cent toilet fee and gave a pursed lip nod to the uniformed man standing guard at the rotating gate. There was high traffic at this autobahn rest stop, but the chrome piping and white ceramic shined sterile.

I took the first stall. The knob and lock were unusually hefty stainless steel fixtures, the door was heavy and shut smooth with a thud. What a place, I thought! Well worth the fifty cents.

Having never met anyone who’s contracted anything from a public toilet, I’ve pretty much shook the fear of sitting directly on them, yet I still made a quick inspection for miss fires. The coast was clear, but I noticed a picture of a hand next to a red LED. Impulsively, I waved my fingers over the little graphic to see if I could get the light to do anything.

It did! It started blinking and to my surprise, other things started happening as well.

After a few moments of clicks and hums hidden behind the plastic toilet back, which reminded me of the extensive mechanical happenings preceding the ejection of a compact disc tray, a blue panel opened and a robotic arm laboriously extended itself over the back of the toilet seat.

After a pause, as if the little arm were taking a break, another electric motor, like that of a remote control car, started to buzz. The toilet seat then actually started to rotate on the bowl! I watched in amazement as the oblique ring adjusted itself to float smoothly through the grip of the robot’s hand, which was now spraying water and doing a halfway efficient job of drying it at the same time. This slow process was evidently designed to take place after someone had exited the stall.

When it was finally over, the arm retracted and the seat finished spinning, I sat down on the damp plastic. On the inside of the door was a glass case holding an advertisement for gas fireplaces. I couldn’t read it, but I enjoyed the nice pictures while getting number one out of the way. I then leaned forward to focus on the second stage, which must have triggered another sensor on the wall, because the toilet suddenly began flushing. A rush of cool air blew under me and then the thing quieted again, but only for a few seconds.

I heard the familiar clicking and humming start and I knew what was coming. Defiant against the poor engineering, I stayed seated while the blue hatch opened and the little arm came out. The thing hit me in the back, but its small motor was not enough to push me off the seat. Its gears started skipping, releasing the pressure and coming forward again, tapping me over and over. Finally, not being able to reach its correct position, the robot arm gave up. Then the seat rotation motor started. Unable to do its job under my weight, it too began popping out of gear. In sets of threes, the seat would flick a bit to the left and slide back. As a final display of horrible design, the arm started spraying water down my back.

I was determined to do what I’d paid for and stayed seated, looking at the pictures of gas fireplaces and the big stainless steel fixture on the heavy door. The seat never gave up like the arm did. The clicking and buzzing kept on. The water kept spraying me. People were talking outside, in German of course, and I wondered if they were asking what was going on in here. I wondered if the uniformed man watching guard could hear his robot toilet suffering in stall number one. I wished this thing would leave me alone. I thought about how one line of computer code was all that was needed to teach this robot of the possibility that someone was still sitting on the toilet!

Finally, unable to focus and achieve any results, I got up, dried off and left.

Before starting the van, my plans foiled by poor design, Desiree informed me the fifty cent voucher I’d gotten when paying for the toilet could be used to buy something at the store. Between both our vouchers, the only thing I could find priced under a dollar was a tasteless health bar, but at least I got my money’s worth.

One Thought on “Robo-Toilet”

  1. jeff Says:

    I am guessing that the same people who designed the toilet didnt design the bmw. 😉

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