Monday, October 5, 2015

Befuddled by Cripples

At a lot of airports now they have those trains that go from terminal to terminal and the train doesn’t even have a driver. There are no humans in charge anywhere. Those trains really stress the hell out of me. I feel like I’m hurdling toward hell.

Because last time I rode one of those trains was in Denver and it was packed full like a cattle car. The cheery, disembodied, female computer voice said, “Arriving at terminal C.” When the doors opened, I waited for the pack of walking humans on board to leave before attempting my exit. But the doors closed in the middle of my egress and clamped down on my wheelchair like a giant, vertical, steel alligator jaw. And the doors wouldn’t let go. And then the cheery, disembodied, female computer voice bitched me out: “Please stop blocking the door! You’re holding up this train!” And then I swear she said, “You damn cripples are such a pain in the ass! Why do they even let you people out in public?” That’s probably not what she said, but that’s what it felt like.

The jaws stopped trying to devour me just long enough for me to shoot out onto the platform. The train sped away. But that’s what happens when there are no humans in charge. A human train engineer would have seen a cripple trapped in the door and would have thought on his/her feet and flipped the emergency door opener switch or something. But computers don’t improvise. And when they encounter a situation they aren't programmed to deal with, such as a cripple trapped in the door, they either panic or shut down. I don’t blame them. I react the same way in those circumstances. But it still stresses me out.

But I guess I’d better get used to it. The potential for computers and robots to put working-class humans on the permanent unemployment line is limitless and we can’t stand in the way of progress. And no matter how well computers and robots are programmed to deal with every potential customer service scenario, it’s inevitable that sooner or later they will be befuddled by a cripple. Because that’s how cripples are. Just when humans think we’ve got every possible scenario figured out, along come the cripples.

And it won’t be just train engineers out of work. I go to my neighborhood CVS drug store at least once a week. So far all the employees there are human. And after one of them rings me up, he/she comes around and gets my cash out of a pouch attached to the side of my wheelchair. I can’t do it myself. The humans know the routine but what happens if I go to CVS next week and all the employees are robots wearing blue polo shirts and CVS nametags with names on them like Org or Blip? When I ask a robot to come around and get my money out of my pouch, I’m sure it won’t be programmed for that so it’ll just stand there with a befuddled robot look on its stupid robot face. And it won’t do me any good to demand to speak to a supervisor because it'll also be a robot so it won’t have a clue either. So I’ll probably say screw it and just take my stuff and try to leave without paying. But then the robot security rent-a-cop will grab me and arrest me. Nothing good can come of this driverless train stuff.

(Smart Ass Cripple is completely reader supported. Contributing to the tip jar, purchasing books and subscribing through Amazon Kindle keeps us going. Please help if you can.)