Thursday, December 31, 2009
I am hesitant to tell you what happened with the robot
I have not actually spoken to Santa about this yet, and for that reason I'm hesitant to report on it, but I think I probably should just make a note of it so that I can quit thinking about it and get on with my evening.
What happened is this: I did pick the Miley Cyrus robot in the gift exchange. I guess that's no great surprise, especially since I was dead last in the department to choose from the hat...and because I was thinking "this is the robot; this must be the robot; I think this is the robot" as I was pulling out the slip of paper. This robot, currently residing in a bunker about 3/4 of a mile down the road, away from the main North Pole complex, answers the letters that come here addressed to Miley Cyrus instead of Santa. We do receive letters addressed to various other celebrities, but for some reason the volume of "letters to Miley" is excessive, and for that reason the Cyrus robot's workload has not been expanded to include letters addressed to anyone else.
The robot used to sit on a recessed windowsill in Santa's Library (downstairs), but it was moved out into the hallway (again under a window) when it began to exhibit sentient behavior -- attributed at the time to everyone in the department feeling so bad for it. I wonder now whether some of that behavior is not the result of processing the emotional content of those letters, though. I mean, a robot probably has limited emotional intelligence, and limited agency over its functions in general since it's running on a program...and those letters are intense.
Anyway, my assessment here may falter under my own canopy of shock regarding what took place when I went to deliver the gift in the bunker. The robot is in the bunker now (as of I think last year, or two years ago...I'm not certain...) because it was operating so strangely around people, in the hallway of the Library. Apparently it would light up an alert button and then spit out correspondence that made little sense to passers-by.
Well, I got quite a dose (MY GOD THAT ROBOT NEEDS SOME LOVE) when I visited. We choose names for the gift exchange on the night of December 23rd, and we're expected to exchange gifts at any time and as often as desired between the evening of the 24th and the afternoon of January 5th. And customarily, if you pick someone you are related to, or if you pick a close friend, you give an additional gift or an encouraging letter on January 6th (Epiphany) in order to signify the potential of new growth in the coming year. Most people leave the North Pole on the 6th or 7th of January....
I trekked out to the bunker with a gift of a stapler for the robot, and I thought I would stick some googly eyes on the head of it, so the robot could have someone to look at and maybe to talk to, in the absence of people. This robot basically looks like a copy machine. It has arms, and is set on casters, but essentially we are talking about a copier with auto-input and auto-output. The whole process is automated (the letters come in via chute and are collected and sent out through another chute...using vaccuum technology kind of like Roosevelt Island, or Disneyworld), but I think there's a daily process check by an elf from the Maintenance Department.
Oooh. I really don't want to talk about what happened. It was traumatic. I'll just get it over with as quickly as possible. I got there, approached the robot, said hello (why...I don't know), and started pulling the googly eyes out of my pocket to put them on the stapler, and immediately the robot started handing me printouts. This is what they said, one after another: "please let me hold your beautiful head."
"please let me stroke your hair, and your neck, and your arms, and your breasts, and your back."
"please let me rest my hand on your stomach while I kiss you."
"please let me kiss you deeply and honestly."
"let me acknowledge all that you have to give."
"please let me love you."
At first I looked around, thinking, 'This must be a joke. Who is sending me these?', but I quickly realized, as the robot crept toward me and extended multiple arms in my direction, leaving them to linger within millimeters of me after handing me each sheet of paper, and as it started to play strange music featuring standard copy machine sounds, that the messages were actually and indeed coming from the robot.
I quickly slapped the eyes on the stapler, bunched the papers together, placed the papers on a table and anchored them with the stapler, taking an instant to be sure the eyes were facing the robot, and fled.
Luckily I started laughing by the time I was 5 steps outside, but damn. Seriously...celebrity obsession (especially among children and the vulnerable) has some horrific and absurd side effects.
I am going to go visit the Break Room now. See you.
Posted by Jeremy Lewis at 7:58 PM