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Chick Wit: Progress isn't always automatic

There is such a thing as too much progress. The proof is what happened to me the other day at the airport.

There is such a thing as too much progress. The proof is what happened to me the other day at the airport.

I begin with a quick trip to the ladies' room before boarding. Every woman of a certain age knows what I'm talking about. Whether we need to or not, we're going to the bathroom, just in case we need to in the foreseeable future, which is defined as the next 15 minutes.

Specifically, I'm talking about the preemptive pee.

This is similar to our equally adorable habit of carrying a water bottle everywhere, because it's important to stay hydrated at all times and God forbid we have to cross the Sahara. It goes without saying that the water bottle and the preemptive pee are related, but that's not the point herein.

The point is that the ladies' bathroom, as we ladies know, is now fully automatic, which is a sure sign of progress. The world has gotten so damn smart that the toilet knows when to flush, the soap knows when to squirt, the water knows when to turn on, and the paper towel knows when to dispense.

In theory.

I go into the stall and do my thing, but when I get up, the toilet doesn't flush. I sit up and down, twice, but it still doesn't flush. I wiggle my tush in front of the sensor, and nothing happens. Well, maybe the sensor covers its eyes or throws up, but the toilet still doesn't flush and I'm done exercising for the day.

I press the tiny red button, then hit it with my hand. Still, nothing. You would think I'd give up, but I don't want to be the woman emerging from the stall with an unflushed toilet. Guaranteed I'll run into someone who either reads my books or, more likely, remembers me from French II in high school.


And you know the first thing she'll tell everybody at the next reunion.

Scottoline is a pig.

So I sit in the stall, wishing for a toilet handle that worked in the old-fashioned, mechanical way. In other words, always.

But no.

Because now we can make toilets that flush automatically, we do, proving that not every improvement improves anything.

So I wait in the stall until the ladies' room is empty, then I slink out and make a beeline for the sink. These days, I wash my hands after the preemptive pee, now that even the viruses have caught progress, which is evidently contagious, and their names are full of numbers and letters, like H1N1, which looks like a password but really spells YOU NEED PURELL.

I go to the sink and wave my hands under the automatic soap dispenser.

No soap.

I wave my hand under the dispenser again, but still no soap. I go to the second, third, and fourth dispenser, waving my hands back and forth, then up and down, then around and around. Still no soap, even after the hokey pokey.

OK, fine, I figure I'll do without the soap and just rinse my hands. So I wave my hands under the faucet at the fourth sink, but no water.

You know where this is going.

I try the third and second faucets, moving back down the line of sinks, and I end up at the first faucet, where a tiny jet of water splashes into my hand. We used to have faucets that you twisted on and off, using an anachronistic device called a knob, but those worked too well and got replaced by progress.

Even so, the water I finally got isn't enough to fill a thimble and I'm committed to this hand-rinsing thing, so I wave my hands under the faucet, but my water ration has expired. I consider using the water from my water bottle, but the Gobi could be just around the corner.

So I give up and wave my damp hands in front of the automatic dispenser to get a paper towel.

No towels.

I go to the second and third dispenser, but still no towels. I engage in some creative profanity and remember with a stab of longing the ancient dispenser for paper towels, which had no sensors, moving parts, or computer chips. You would see the edge of the towel and simply pull it free.

It was all in the wrist.

But those dispensers have gone the way of typewriters.

Which is what we had before laptops that crash.