Relating to Robots

I was sitting in a chair facing the hallway corridor at the local hospital when I heard a voice. A female one.
“Your delivery has arrived. ”
… Who IS that?
So I was in the waiting room of the cardiologist office, waiting for them to call me into a room and get a heart monitor put on. I would wear it 24 hours – A routine test. ‘She’ was just parked there, facing the waiting room. Surely they heard? ‘She’ was persistent.
“Your delivery has arrived. ”
(Another one minute pause)

“Your delivery has arrived. ”
Amused, I was thinking: they’re all ignoring ‘her.’ …
“Your delivery has arrived. ”
(Another one minute pause)

SHE was a white thing, resembling an office cold water tap or a errrrr compact refrigerator. There were two lit lights on her topmost surface: a red one and a green one.
I snapped this actual picture of her (below, under this post) while she stood politely in the hall, waiting for someone to respond to her…

She was the hospital robot; sent here on an errand. I’d seen her around before, whiz zing through the carpeted halls, negotiating corners with careful expertise.
“Your delivery has arrived. ”
At last! A staff member ( “Sharon, the woman with the short smartly coiffed blonde hair who would soon put me on the monitor.) Arrived and swiftly unlocked a box on the back of the robot…
“Drawer unlocked,” declared the robot in a feminine and distinctly emotionless voice that one expects robots to have.
Sharon didn’t bat an eye. No thank you. No smile for the robot. I sat there even more amused, pondering that I probably WOULD have smiled and thanked Robot.
With the drawer locked backed up and the delivery in hand (papers? meds? supplies? i could not see…) Sharon hurried away into an office.
The robot turned and as she did so—called out, “Thank you. Have a good afternoon.” She had great elocution. She was speaking loudly enough and yes she lacked “feeling” in her tone but she sure enunciated well.
No one acknowledged her, obviously. Sharon was gone. I almost wanted to answer the robot.
I watched her progress. She hummed on slowly, sensed a man coming out of a doorway, came to a gentle stop, waited for him to pass and continued on her way. The man didn’t smile at her. Again I wondered if I would have. I watched her proceed down the hall, around the corner and out of view.
Given all I observed, she was doing better than me today; socially.
I understand this robot is called an “automated robotic delivery unit.”
It safely navigates hospital corridors, even elevators! Miss Robot, as I’m calling her, efficiently gets items from point A to point B. She rolls 24 hours, 7 days a week to make both scheduled and on-demand deliveries, and never gets sidetracked from her mission. She is polite too.
Whether it is a single IV or an entire unit’s medication orders … a roll of gauze or enough supplies to replenish a supply closet, there is nothing too small or too large for this robot.
She can even attach to – and transport- a wide variety of hospital carts and can be employed for any application and be attached to any of a series of carts (linens, dietary, waste, meds, lab).
Oh no! Cries The Wall Street Journal. Robots are taking over the jobs of blue collar workers.
Right, and pre-teen boys mowing lawns are stealing jobs tax free from landscapers! I’m not totally facetious. I heard that one from an irritated landscaper yesterday. My response: if that’s true, then teen girls are stealing babysitting jobs tax free from hardworking nannies! Now I’m completely being sarcastic. It’s called work ethic.
I was enamored with the robot precisely because she never stopped to chat about last night’s episode of Big Brother.
Sharon did smile at me. She engaged in small talk with me, or certainly tried.
Miss Robot and I have something in common. Voice inflection and social niceties aren’t on my list either but I give whatever I do— my complete attention to the best of my ability.
After thinking on this, I know the answer:
Yes, if I was Sharon, I’d have smiled at Miss Robot, and I’d have thanked her too. Who says robots don’t have personalities?
She made my terrible morning brighter. Watching her persistence as she patiently awaited attention:
“Your delivery has arrived.”

Well now I dare say I related MORE with that persistence than with any human I encountered today.

Miss Robot never swore, sighed, frowned, or made disparaging remarks about Sharon.
She never gave up.


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