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Time savers are really time adders

So I enjoy having my life made easier as much as the next guy, especially if that next guy is Rush Limbaugh (but don't stand too close to Rush; he needs his hands and mouth kept clear when he eats). However, I've been noticing that many of today'...

Brian Matuszak
Brian Matuszak

So I enjoy having my life made easier as much as the next guy, especially if that next guy is Rush Limbaugh (but don't stand too close to Rush; he needs his hands and mouth kept clear when he eats). However, I've been noticing that many of today's modern conveniences that have been designed to make my life easier are actually having the opposite effect: they are adding minutes to my life instead of saving them. For example, let's take this discussion right down the toilet ....

AUTOMATIC FLUSHERS: I know I've addressed these monstrosities in previous columns, but not in great detail because, as you know, I'm a delicate flower. However, I believe the time has come to denounce these demonic devices and their presumptuous attitudes.

When I first encountered an automatic flusher, I was intimidated, afraid of what might happen if the flush reflex kicked in when I was still "visiting the library." Would I get vacuum-sealed to the rim, needing to be extracted with the Jaws of Life? Or, worse yet, would I become permanently stuck, my flesh grafted to the porcelain and forced to live out the rest of my days in the SuperAmerica restroom as morning radio show announcers around the country giggled at my plight? Eventually, after a few "phone calls to Hitler," the automatic flusher and I reached an understanding: it wouldn't go early and I wouldn't go after Taco John's. Everything was fine until early last fall, when I began teaching at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and soon discovered the ultimate in restroom frustration: the Automatic Urinal Flusher.

It's bad enough that all of these evil robot eyes have taken the flush decision out of my hands (I like having the final say as to when this particular business transaction has reached completion, thank you), but these urinals at UMD are even worse because it's a crapshoot (so to speak) as to when they're even going to kick in. There have been times this semester when I've been smack-dab in the middle of "YouTube Googling" when a sudden, loud WHOOSHHHH!!! reverberates off the linoleum walls and I'm forced to dodge a horrifying liquid spray while stuck in a compromising position. Or, worse yet, I'll clearly be finished with my "coffee lease" but Mr. Roboto decides to take the afternoon off, leaving me with no other option than to frantically wave my hands in front of what I perceive to be the sensor, trying to set the thing off. I tell you, one of these days, a UMD administrator is gonna walk in on me as I'm gesticulating wildly, and I'll be back to wiping windshields in front of the Depot for a nickel. Speaking of that ...

AUTOMATIC CAR WASHES: I just don't care for the attitude. The electronic screen gently flashes, requesting that I drive forward. I comply, slowly inching forward until my vehicle reaches some secret position. Suddenly, the screen is screaming STOP! STOP! STOP! in capital letters while a loud buzzer begins screeching at me as if I'm trying to smuggle illegal hams out of Canada in my pants. It's all quite unnerving -- in fact, on my way out, I'm positive I hear a low electronic chuckle under that blast of hot air.

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AUTOMATIC WALMART CHECKOUT: We tried this lovely contraption last week. It wouldn't let us scan half our items. It wouldn't let us bag our items. It wouldn't take our gift card. We called the Help Lady over so many times, we will be exchanging Christmas cards with her next December.

AUTOMATIC VENDING MACHINES: I attempted to buy a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos from a UWS vending machine in 2003 with a crisp new dollar bill. I'm still trying.

To sum up, automatic time savers are automatic time adders. You want to save time in your life? Do what I have learned to do. Eat dessert first, read the end of the book before the beginning, and send the casino a check every month.

Brian Matuszak has been difficult and demanding since February 2008. He is the co-founder of Renegade Comedy Theatre, founder of Rubber Chicken Theater, and the only automatic device he likes is the public library checkout. It saves time and, when you're checking out the serial killer books, funny looks from librarians.

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