She was sitting in a quiet room. The only noise her ears heard were of the keyboard buttons. In complete harmony with the fingers buttons were doing their work, the count down had started, the work must finish soon the mind was informing all the senses in regular intervals. Writing environment was perfect, all kinds of distracting electronic appliances were sent on a sleep mode, kitchen work was done, there was nothing important scribbled on the to-do-list, no guests were expected and she was alone at home. What else a writer could ask for, thanking her luck for the day, she began work. A big smile on her quite relaxed face was quite visible. Her eyes playing the role of a strict instructor were busy in showing the right path and correcting the movements of the black passengers walking on the white field of her screen. Environment was quite pleasant for everyone in the team.
Suddenly, everything changed!!
There was a loud noise, rather loud noises outside her apartment. First thing that came in her mind was Grandma’s golden words, “Don’t get too happy and proud when your luck favours you, it can change any second!!”
Young woman said aloud, “Yes, you are right Grandma!! You must be so proud sitting up there, now don’t you smile, luck can change any second.”
Her thoughts stream completely lost its way, fingers, keyboard buttons, as well as black passengers everyone stopped moving as if the police had announced corfue in an emergency. Her team had to immediately stop the work. Her eyes became quite big, angry waves catched her mind receiver and was displaying complete chaos inside, this happened for few minutes. Than she tried to hear what exactly was the topic of the neighbours loud discussion. It didn’t took her long to realize they were again arguing about the washing machine. In her building people of all colour and ages were living, few had recently moved in while few had spent their entire life in that building. Building was renovated, paint colours changed, apartment owners changed but as they say, certain rules have come into existence to stay as they are forever, they never change. The rule of the washing machine in that building fall into this category. There were nine apartments in the building and everybody used to get washing turns one after the other for two days in a row. Elderly people had spent their entire life following this rule, changing rules also meant changing their old habits which was absolutely out of the question. For young bachelors, single women, working couple and families having young kids this was a big problem. They had to wait sometimes for a month to get their turn. They wanted to use the machine every week even for a day or half but every single week. The old rule was certainly causing lot of troubles, it should have changed with time. It didn’t changed but definitely gave rise to other connected wash day problems.
That day they were arguing about the time, one person took bit long to finish and the other didn’t had patience. He had been waiting for three weeks for his turn. The issue started with one small problem and discussion between two people. But all other gates opened, everyone joined in, now there were many issues, many problems, and the discussion took the form of a loud aggressive verbal fight in no time. Though young woman was quite upset but suddenly she felt happy. Because the gates had opened and the neighbours were investing time in talking to each other, of course their reasoning was bit absurd and their way was also not proper but at least they were looking at each other face to face and have found a common topic to discuss. It was bit strange in that apartment, people used to avoid each other. One gate used to open only after realizing no one else is opening their gates or talking on the stairs. People didn’t wanted to engage in any kind of discussion. Whenever they crossed their paths accidentally, they simply said “hallo” or “Goodbye” or “one two additional lines” on some rare occasions. Everyone used to run towards their garage or bus stop, as if running away from the neighbours. However, there was not a big reason to do so, but it had become an apartment ritual, every new person coming in, learned, adopted and followed this “running and avoiding” system quite fast. But they couldn’t adopt the washing machine rules.
Young woman thought, there are so many other things of much more importance going on in each single person’s life, how do they get time to engage in washing machine fight. Big deal, wash your clothes little later or little earlier or if nothing works simply wash by hand. People are forgetting all about basic courtesy and manners, the word tolerance is in a dinosaur category, it has lost its meaning years back. It’s such a pity people bring themselves on such a low-level, they even forget how petty the reason is.
She finally decided to join the group, as soon as she opened her gate, everyone became silent for few seconds. She greeted everyone, received quick and short head or extended lip greetings back. At this moment she was quite pleased to see all her neighbours together standing on different stairs. In silent mode they were actually looking like ideal neighbours, who were trying to protect the society ethics but as soon as the words started coming out of their mouth they became just the opposite. They didn’t behave like well-educated men and women, rather they behaved like an illiterate crazy mob.
She tried her best to calm everyone down and in fact even gave an idea to organize a fun get-together on the weekend. In midst of an angry discussion with all the faces looking like zombie faces, this kind of conversation was not given much attention but was heard. The voices became low, few joined in the new conversation, the rest couldn’t change their emotional channel quickly so they continued but their anger speed broke down. Within five minutes everyone disappeared and the closed gates appeared again. That argument never saw its conclusion, this was a monthly routine since decades.
She also showed the face of the gate to once again an isolated corridor. She went back to her writing-table but couldn’t stop thinking about what had just happened. She thanked washing machine for bringing people together and thought the day when everyone will buy their private machines, they will completely stop any kind of interaction. That day will break even this weak link of interaction. The world needs mediators human or machine to bring people together. There is a big danger that the word “physical interaction” will soon disappear, it will be completely replaced by the “virtual interaction”. Both kinds of interactions must be balanced soon. Otherwise, everyone will have to face many more problems on personal as well as community level. Society ethics will be lost for ever!!
She thought about it for few minutes, than again started pushing her fingers on the keyboard, again her team started working. Black passengers reappeared on the white field. She got her broken rhythm back, the work saw its end before the arrival of the deadline.
She went to bed with few open-ended questions – Luck was in her favour that day but will it also favour the society in future? The trend is completely going towards virtual interaction, will the physical interactions disappear for ever? Will the machines and humans will think alike in the days to come? Will there be any difference left between the two? Will these human turned machines have any kind of emotions? Will they remember anything about physical interactions? She couldn’t even bear to think about it more, it sounded quite scary. Quickly she searched her ear plugs and went into deep sleep listening to her favourite music.
Author: Rashmi R-R
“The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that man may become robots” – Erich Fromm