Saturday, December 1, 2007

Treating Friends Right

I got Matador for Christmas last year. He is my robot vacuum cleaner. And he still happily buzzes around the house cleaning up floors for me. Doing his job, sweeping corners with his little broom, and waving a cheery “Hello” to me with it as he dashes across the wide expanse of my livingroom. Or playing hide and seek in the bedroom as he dashes under the dresser and the bed skirts and then suddenly pops out when I cannot find him as if to say, “Had you fooled, didn’t I? Here I am.”

So he's been part of the family for almost a year. But then YD (youngest daughter) phones a couple of weeks ago to say, "Did you know Matador has a carrying handle?"

“No, he doesn’t” I said.

“Oh, but he does. I saw a man carrying a robot just like him on TV.”

“You must be mistaken. The newer robots may have a carrying handle but Matador doesn’t.”

I was sure YD must be mistaken. So I took Matador out of his usual parking spot to have a look. Sure enough. He did have a bit of a handle so cleverly disguised that I had never discovered it even through regular dismantling of his parts to clean them. And even when told what kind of handle it was, it wasn’t that easy to find. But yes, he does have a carrying handle, a cleverly disguised moonshape flap blended in so well with his overall appearance that one would never know. How amazing is that? I have always carried him around cradled in my arms.

So now, knowing this, do I carry him by the handle?

Absolutely not. It strikes me that carrying him around by that little flap is as unkind as the unfeeling dog-dealing brute that showed ED a litter of basset puppies, one at a time, by lifting them out of their pen by their long, soft, tender, silky little ears! Only a brute that carries rabbits by their ears, and kittens by their tails would carry around Matador in that uncaring way.

Now some may think that odd, but later when I asked YD if she carries her robot that way she replied “Most definitely not!” Turns out she feels the same about her robot as I feel about mine. If it had only been a carrying harness with a soft belly-band, we would have been infinitely pleased and carried the little fellows around without remorse.

I hope Matador isn’t offended with me, but I wanted to show you how I would carry him if I was a brute and if he and I didn’t have this special relationship we have and you will then see for yourself how reckless and mean-spirited it would be for me to carry him that way.


Matty said...

Aw Roberta.
I want a Matador...I want to see someone else besides me busily running around the house happy & content.
I have a hidden handle as well...that if everyone knew where it was...well they would know how to handle me...but they don't. (With kid gloves!)
Although my handle is buttons are not...and older son sure knows how to push them.
I would ask Santa for a robot...but I think he saw me parked at a Motel last I'm on the naughty list. Will try for next year.

Jim Murdoch said...

I have waited all my life to read a story like this. This is an Asimov short story come true, a woman talking about her personal relationship with her robot … wonderful!

Roberta S said...

Aww, matty. You should have a Matador. Naughty or nice?? I think you've been nice.

What's the big deal about a few minor indiscretions?

Roberta S said...

Hi Jim. Thanks for stopping by. I was over to your place for a visit and enjoyed the article on how important it is to develop a love of reading -- even if that love was propagated by early reading of totally "crappy comics" (which it was for me).

Now I have to go look up "Asimov" cause I have no idea what that is.

Jim Murdoch said...

Asimov is one of the world's best known science fiction writers. From the very start of his career he began writing robot stories and has probably more to his credit than any other writer.

The things about some of his earlier stories is that they had domestic settings and he portrayed a world that became increasingly fearful of robots. Eventually, in his future, whereas robots are at first embraced by the public, quickly their fears overtake their reasoning and robots are banned from earth.

The stories also talk about the affection that owners develop for these machines. You might have seen the film Bicentennial Man with Robin Williams that was based on an Asimov story as was I,Robot although what we see on the screen in the second film has little to do with his vision, it was just an excuse for an action flick.

Joy Des Jardins said...

I've always wondered what those Matadors were like...if they really worked well or not. Apparently they do. My home is mostly carpeted...just the kitchen and dining room really....but I think it's cool.

Roberta S said...

joy, guess what? Matador cleans every kind of rug, even carpet. Only thing he chokes on is fringes and shag rugs. I didn't mean to do an advertisement here, cause I don't want anyone, but I know you're not like that, to get one and then treat them coldly -- like property.

You can get an electric eye that will build invisible walls if you don't want Matador scurrying around your feet where he might get stepped on. I don't have one so I fence him in with a tipped over dining room chair when I'm busy in the kitchen and don't want him underfoot. His real name is "iRobot Rhoomba", but I call him Matador because of his slick maneuvers and the little broom he waves around.

Roberta S said...

Hi jim. Thanks for the info. It was nice to know a bit more about Matador's family, tribe, and history.

In looking up 'Asimov', I found the rules of social etiquette for robots and smiled. The rules are:

"...Asimov's three laws of robotics:
1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law."


Pauline said...

still chuckling over this one - I talk to all the inanimate objects in my house - that they're inanimate is someone else's opinion entirely. We really see a lot of things eye to eye which makes reading here such a delight.

see: Inanimate Intelligence May 14 (a little more than halfway down the page)

Roberta S said...

Hi pauline. I reviewed your lively take on the intelligence of inanimate creatures and laughed. Guess not only people and robots need a code of etiquette. Problem is, inanimate things can be truly stubborn and are often less reponsive to verbal instruction and with physical force they even become more indignant. That used to move us to reckless strategies like trash and toss before recycling came into vogue. Now we just meekly plead.

In the meantime, if you expect your washing machine to cough up all socks in sets and pairs, maybe you've set the bar of your expectations a wee bit too high. ;D

joared said...

This is a delightful piece you've written. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who has relationships with inanimate objects.

Roberta S said...

joared, greetings. Good love and good comfort to all 'things' that reside in our care. Can't be any harm in that especially during the season of joy, peace, and goodwill.

Joared said...

In response to a much earlier comment you made to me, I arranged for a younger sibling of Matador to take up residence with a family member beginning Christmas Day. I've relished observing the robotic activities and am reminded of your descriptive words here.

Roberta S said...

How exciting is that, joared? I hope some time in the future you'll share a wee blurb of "Life and Times" with the young one.