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King: Today's conveniences are anything but
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Dear Lord, save me from modern technology and new and improved products. Every time I find a cleaning product or a cosmetic I like, the manufacture improves it. Every time I think I know where the grocery store stocks their seasonings or dried fruit, they move it.

And Lord, please let who ever designs public buildings know that most people who use a bathroom can do so without their gadgets.

The other day I took my husband to the hospital for some minor surgery. We got there early and on empty stomachs. When the nurses wheeled my husband back to the OR, I went in search of coffee and a sweet roll.

The hospital was new and spacious, the staff kind and attentive, but the small cafeteria in the basement had undergone none of the expansive renovation the rest of the establishment enjoyed and there was no one there to instruct me in what appeared to be a serve-yourself system.

The pastries were sugary things wrapped in plastic, but I picked up a lovely hot biscuit and wandered around looking for coffee and the cash register.

Both were in the next room and unattended. I found a large thermos and a stack of paper cups. In need of caffeine despite its effect on my blood pressure, I filled the cup with regular, drank half and returned to fill up with decaf. Apparently the coffee urns were programmed to give only full cups, and the hot liquid began to run over the top and on to the counter.

I look around for help, found none, but spied a wet towel by the urns. I guess I wasn't the only person to miscalculate. I also found tops for the coffee cups and decided to take my brew back to the room.

But first, a stop in the bathroom. I set my purse on top of the trash container, but there was no place for my coffee cup, so I reached over to put it on the washbasin and got my sleeve doused when my arm passed the automatic sensor and triggered the faucet. When I jumped back in surprise, I triggered the sensor on the towel machine, and it spit out several sheets of brown paper toweling.

Finally, after using the toilet and realizing the automatic flush hadn't done an adequate job, I tried to activate the toilet sensor. I passed my hand over it a couple of times. Nothing happened. Then I backed around and passed my derrière over the whole toilet. Still nothing.

Finally I found an emergency button, pressed it, picked up my coffee and exited, thoroughly frustrated with modern technology.

Later in the morning, I tried to wash my hands at the sink in my husband's room. I soaped up as instructed and then tried to rinse.

This time the sensor didn't work at all. The nurse said the battery was probably dead.

How clueless can this generation get? In order to save someone the effort of pushing a lever or turning a handle, thoughtless designers create gadgets that consume more of the nation's natural resources and put more toxins into the nation's waste stream. Batteries contain heavy metals and are a health hazard long after they cease to serve our energy needs.

This is just one example of a flawed system that encourages innovations without investigating outcomes. The same flawed system exists on all levels: social, political and economic.

We praise innovation. We are passionate about anything new. We love gimmicks and gadgets, and then we turn around and wonder why our lives are so full of gunk.

Merchants move Black Friday to Thursday. States compete for the earliest possible primary. Meanwhile, citizens complain about political overload, and buyers whine about corporate greed. Give the public what it wants is the businessman's creed.

Think carefully, Mr. and Mrs. Public. Today you're likely to get it.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.

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