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Technology Predicaments in Everyday Life

Lori finds the lowest forms of technology confusing, or inadequate. She needs an instruction manual to operate a Swiffer.


Modern technology was originally meant to make things easier and faster. It's really not true as most everyone knows. Technology isn't just applied to computers and electronic devices, medical, NASA, or engineering wonders. A soap dispenser that squirts out soap simply by holding your hands under it is a new technological wonder, to me anyway. But I wonder why they can make a space satellite and the Hubble telescope, but can't design a hair dryer cord that doesn't curl into knots (see Electrical Cords Gone Mad below). Come with me on this tour of every day technology that can be mystifying, confusing, inadequate, complex, and down right annoying.

Public Restroom Technology

Am I the only person who finds public restroom technology confusing and stressful? Case in point, we have a fancy movie complex in our small town. The restroom probably has twenty stalls. It's very clean and nicely decorated. Best of all, the only thing you have to touch is the latch on the stall door and the TP and paper towels. The flush is magic. No lever, it just flushes automatically. If you hold your hands under the sink faucet, the water comes out automatically. Hold your hand under the soap dispenser and you get a generous blob of foam. This is followed by the swipe of a hand under the paper towel dispenser and out pops a towel (I call this swipe technology). That's cool.

But then there is the public library that I frequent several times a week. It has auto flush and water faucet, but manual soap and paper towels. I've gotten used to it because I'm there so often.

There are various public restrooms that offer mixed technology. Take these into consideration.

  • Auto flush, auto soap, manual faucet, auto swipe towel dispenser.
  • Manuel flush, Manual soap, auto faucet, auto swipe paper towels.
  • Auto flush, auto faucet, auto soap, manual towels.
  • Etc. Etc.

The most frustrating restroom technology is the paper towel dispenser. There are so many different kinds.

  • The noisy lever type where you move it up and down until the amount of towel you want arrives and you tear it out. These make a lot of loud, irritating sound.
  • The pull the towel out type. The towels are neatly folded and stacked into the dispenser. You simply pull a towel out. I like this type best.
  • The automatic swipe type. These can be irritating. Some have bad sensors. You have to swipe a few times before towel comes out. The other irritation is that whoever installed it was told by the business how much towel they will allow. Usually you get a postage stamp sized towel, or medium but still inadequate amount. On rare occasions, you get a nice ample amount. And every once in awhile I come across a dispenser that keeps spitting out towels after you are done getting your own. They make me laugh.

Now let me give you a real life example of confusion with a paper towel dispenser. I live on a rural peninsula. When I go to town, I get as much done as possible. Since I make a day of it, I have a chosen list of certain restrooms in the vicinity where I'm at, places that I know are always kept clean. There is one in the medical arts building. Now I've been going there for some time. They have a paper towel dispenser that looks exactly like the ones that are stacked and you just pull one out. No matter what time of day I visit, the trash is full of used paper towels. But when I go to pull out a towel there are none. It ticks me off that they are so stingy about how much paper towels they'll put in. The other day a woman was there and she was trying to find the paper towel and was getting very irritated. I told her "They never have towels when I come here." We examined the dispenser together from every angle. We gave up and wiped our hands on our shirts after trying to unsuccessfully wave our hands dry. Just then a woman comes to the sink, washes her hands, and swipes out a paper towel, looking at us very smugly. A swallow me whole moment.

The auto sink faucet can drive you mad also. Costco's is the most challenging. Awhile back I used their restroom and worked up a hearty sweat with all the angling and acrobatics I tried to get the water running, with no success, mind you. An employee stood in the exit watching me, smirking. "You have to touch the sensor." I told them they ought to put instructions on the wall above the sink. She left shaking her head.

The timed faucet is clearly meant to torment users. This is where you push on a button on top of the faucet or it has a sensor. The water comes out for three seconds then stops. You have to do it several times if you want a thorough hand washing.


Public Door Maneuvering Confusion

Doors in buildings often confuse me. But then, I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to technology of the lowest form. Some doors open automatically. You find them mostly in stores. I like them because I don't like touching doors where thousands of dirty, germ infested hands have touched them. Okay, call me a germ-a-phobe if you want, but I don't get sick very often from contagious diseases. Besides, as a people watcher I see people do the nastiest things with there hands. But, I digress.

There are doors that push open, and doors that pull open; it's the same with closing. Sometimes the instructions are posted right above the door opening and closing apparatus. But I'm the kind of person who reads instructions after all else fails. I get so confused if I've been in town all day going to different places.

Some doors are so heavy I break a sweat or sprain my wrist trying to open and close them.

I hate glass doors in restaurants and small businesses that look as though they've never been washed. That's not a technology issue, just a pet peeve I thought I'd throw in just because.

One day I was on a public technology screw up run. I started my day going to the Starbucks. A manual door, but easy to open and close, but I pushed when I should have pulled and vice versa. The man behind me pushed the door open after waiting thirty seconds. To get back at me, he cut in front of me in line.

Then I went to the doctor whose waiting room is open, no doors. That was easy. Then onto the pharmacy which had an automatic door. Whew.

The post office entrance door has a handle to pull down inside. It seems logical that it would pull open, but you push. However, on the way out there is no handle at all. You push it. Sheesh.

I ended my day at Big 5 to look for some athletic shoes. I was so focused on making a shoe exploration that I paid no mind to how the door opened. I made my selection of shoes and paid at the check out line, which was close to the door. I stood in front of the door and waited for it to open. Nothing happened. I stepped back a few steps, then walked forward and waited for the door to automatically open again. No cigar. I looked over helplessly at the clerk at the check stand and said, "Your automatic door is broken, it won't open." She looked at me like I was an alien with four eyeballs. "It's not an automatic door. You just push. "Oh." My mind was saying, "Earth, swallow me whole." So you see, in regards to doors, maybe a small factor is my ineptness on rare occasions. Very rare.

Now, with manual doors, I often push the wheelchair button to make it open automatically, for my own ease, and to avoid germs. I can just press it with my elbow.

I forgot elevator doors. There are two buttons inside at the bottom of the panel where all the floor numbers are. They have arrows arranged to indicate how to open the door manually, or how to close it. I always get them mixed up. They're confusing looking. Why don't they just say open and close? I've ticked off a few people pushing the wrong one.

Here's a photo. Is it clear to you?

Which one is open and which one is close?

Which one is open and which one is close?

Packaging Will Give You a Nervous Breakdown

Opening packaging is so difficult I've recently started classes to get an engineering degree. It will come in handy when I have to open a package of Planter's peanuts.

Seriously, it's ridiculous how difficult they make it. Open any number of foods or over the counter medications, vitamins and supplements that come in a jar or bottle, and sometimes boxed and you will find a sealed cover over the opening that you need to remove. They are on extremely tight and have a microscopic tab to ease your struggle in removing them. Some have been made easy, but most are really challenging. You have to get out a knife or scissors to do the job.

Another maddening packaging challenge is little packets that hold sauces, condiments, nuts, candies, and a million other things. Some have notches, and that's good. But some have no notch and it takes a machete or stick of dynamite to open them. I love to stop at coffee shops when I'm in town and need a snack and order a cheese or everything bagel, toasted with cream cheese. The cream cheese is Philadelphia brand. The packet has no notch. I never, ever, can get them open on my own. I've gotten wise and ask as soon as they're getting ready to hand it to me to please open it for me. Without fail, they have to use a knife or scissors. I've actually been tempted to call the 1-800 number of the company listed on the back and ask for tech support.

Worst of all is buying non-food items, everything from a pair of scissors to a cell phone or some other gadget, electronic or otherwise. They are so tightly sealed you have to cut it open, but finding the slightest little space to get the knife or scissors in is almost non-existent.

And how about Capri Sun and juice boxes. The containers where you poke the little straw in. Kids manage just fine, but I have to stab it several times and the juice ends up squirting out.

You know what really ticks me off? Go to any emergency room and you will see nurses ripping open packages right and left with great ease. They have to of course, because time is of the essence in emergencies. But really, it's not fair to people like me.

You know what's really strange? Give any three year old the most difficult packaging and they can get it open before you can say "open please."


Electrical Cords Gone Mad

Let's talk about things in the home. I'll start with electrical cords, most specifically, hair dryer cords. Seriously, how come every other cord in my house is mostly straight and easy to handle (unless you store them together haphazardly, then they get tangled), but the hair dryer cord curls into very tight knots. You go to dry your hair, but the cord won't let you go very far without it pulling out. I have to sit on the counter two inches from the mirror to dry my hair. It's very unsettling to see the chin hairs I missed, not to mention the bags under my eyes. Technology is so advanced, why oh why can't they make a hair dryer with a straight, useful cord?

I find it really annoying that in order to get online with your home computer you have to have nine hundred cords and cables and modems. If you want to get behind there to dust (which rarely happens at my house), you have to fight the cords all criss-crossing over each other. Laptops have made it easier, but my laptop is twelve years old and pretty useless. That's my problem, not yours.

My curly cord hair dryer.

My curly cord hair dryer.

Confusing and Nonsensical Electrical Set Ups

Electrical outlets can be challenging sometimes. It depends on the electrician who installed the electrical system in your house. We're talking prong holes first. Some outlets only accept two prongs, while others have three. And the three prong ones are always placed inconveniently. With the three prong outlets, some of the holes are shaped round and some square or rectangular. Who ever installed the electrical outlets in my house put the bathroom one in upside down. Hmm. Maybe that's why the hair dryer curls. When I first moved in it took me awhile to figure out what was wrong.

I see so many strange electrical set ups in people's houses. One friend's house I've stayed at has larger prong holes than the standard. No matter what I need to plug in it's loose and falls right out. So if it's something that belongs to me, I try to pull the prongs wider to fit, but that is very hard and I'm never successful. I don't understand how they get by.

This same house has a ceiling fan in the family room. The lights are connected to the fan unit. There is a knob on the wall that operates both. You can turn the lights on or off and dim or turn them up and turn on or off the fan with the same knob. The fan has four speeds, to compound everything. It takes me a long time to figure it out. You have to push the knob in, or turn it and I never know what will happen. Will the fan go faster, slower, or turn off? Will the lights blare or dim? I have to take anxiety medication before working it.

Power strips are often full. I don't use them. I don't know what they all go to without spending a half hour following the cords to their appliances, computers etc. And then a coffee pot can be right next to it but is not plugged into the power strip because there is no outlet available. You have to find another individual electrical outlet. What?

My upside down electrical outlet.

My upside down electrical outlet.

Confusing Shower Apparatuses

I've seen a wide variety of shower heads when I've visited people. The old ones that have been there for thirty years are miserable things. They might swivel a tad, but usually they are fixed by rigamortis and the water is aimed four feet above me and I have to jump up and down just to get wet. I don't usually keep my cell phone in the shower so if I fall and hurt myself, who will know if everyone is gone for the day?

Shower controls in various houses, motels, or hospitals I've stayed at are very frustrating. There's the standard knobs, hot on the left, cold on the right. Pretty simple. Then you have the lever kind that you turn to the right or turn to the left. Most good ones stop at a certain point. But there are some that go in a complete circle and you can't tell where the sweet spot is that brings on the hot water. These are usually old and well past their prime.

I've seen shower/ bathtub controls that were either really hot or really cold. Nothing in between. Third degree burns or hypothermia are the only choices.

There are some showers that turn from hot to cold in the middle of the shower instantaneously, not having touched a thing. It's not a matter of a small water heater, but a faulty one, apparently. It always goes cold suddenly when your head is piled high with shampoo lather.

I don't understand people who have the hot and cold water controls reversed, and the people don't tell me ahead of time. The cold is on the left, and the hot on the right, and yet the red stripe (for hot water) and the blue stripe (for cold water) are still in the proper place. Just let me know so I don't run the water an hour trying to figure it out.

There is nothing worse than weak or too powerful water pressure.These types usually trickle or pelt like needles stabbing your body.

Now they have what are called hand showers.They can be used as a regular shower head but they can also be removed off its cradle and used as a hand held shower device. They have spray controls that determine the pressure and spray patterns (which is totally cool). The only issue I've had with them in the past at other people's homes is that if I take the nozzle off I can't figure out how to get it back on because it is so high up I can't see what the mechanism looks like. But these shower heads are cool. I bought one recently and just love it. I get to decide the flow rate and pressure and what kind spray pattern and I get to decide where the spray goes. Using the hand shower feature I can now rinse the shampoo off my head thoroughly - no more angling, side stepping or acrobatics. I just whirl it around my head and I don't have to re-rinse. With my old stationary model from 52 BC I would get out of the shower only to find shampoo still on my head in those difficult areas to reach. It really is miserable when you have to get back into the shower with almost no hot water left and try to get the rest of the shampoo out. Now I no longer have to worry about that. What's really cool is that to return the head is easier because I got a model with a magnetic feature. The head - voila - pops right into place.

But all is not rosy with my new shower apparatus. No way. The problem is I can't stop showering now. I've lost ten pounds from all the shriveling. That might sound like a good thing, but because of my new investment, I can't afford new clothes. All in good time. The other downside is that my friend sent the police to my house the other day for a welfare check because I hadn't answered her calls or answered the door all week. The cops broke my door down and caught me in the shower, shivering and blue in the lips. The shower head is still really cool but it doesn't generate heat. I have a letter pending to the manufacturer about this. So the water heater ran out of heat a half hour after I'd gotten in. But it had been hot weather all week so the cold water was refreshing. But then the outdoor temperature dropped down to fifty degrees and I lost my senses. The emergency room treated me for hypothermia. I have recovered and I am now writing this to you in my new shower, but you will be please to know I had a timer installed.

Nosebleed Section Cupboard Placement and Other Strange Arrangements

I have been at houses that have kitchen cupboards placed six feet from the floor. A friend of mine who had them was about five feet tall and had to use a stool. I got altitude sickness and a nose bleed one time trying to get some plates to set the table for her dinner party.

I've also been to houses that have like fifteen cupboards and drawers, plus a pantry and two freezers in the garage - one upright, the other a chest model. It takes me three days to find the silverware. I always get a kick out of where people put their silverware. They might put it at the far end of the kitchen in the smallest width drawer. The cutlery is cramped tightly. These are people who usually have three junk drawers. Go figure.

The cutlery is crammed tightly.

The cutlery is crammed tightly.

We'll Have to Reschedule

I'm so stressed right now after going over the above forms of technology that I must stop this tour for now. I will notify you when I've rescheduled the rest of the journey. Please share your technology quandries and dysfunctions in the comments so I don't feel alone. Thanks for coming along. Now, I'm off to take some melatonin and go to bed. God bless.

Painting woman sleeping

© 2018 Lori Colbo

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