Last night I had an unusual dream. It’s very rare that I wake up with a dream retained in my head in vivid detail. So I thought of sharing it here…
I was talking to a robot. She was a janitor servicing a restroom of one of three space stations orbiting an unnamed planet. The three artificial satellites were about a tenth the size of the moon. They provided the communications needs of the planet they orbit: broadcast, telephony, global positioning and what have you.
Going back to the mechanical janitor…she was about 4 feet tall. But don’t bother getting your teenage anime inspired fantasies fired up. I would best describe her as a small forklift with flimsy aluminum telescopic arms instead of “forks”. Her body, or more appropriately, casing, seemed retro-futuristic in design complete with faded paint and a rich patina of scuffs, scrapes and dents. I can only tell that she’s a she by her Siri-like feminine voice. She had small wheels as feet hidden underneath her boxy frame. I would guess she was an old, obsolete model which is now assigned to menial tasks, rather than be decommissioned.
The dream started with me standing alone with the female robot in the dark, cold lavatory. I could tell it was the men’s room, as one of the walls were lined up with what seemed to be a dozen urinals. The facility seems over-sized for the satellite, because the she-janitor told me that in a day, only one or two humanoids would drop by to use it, and most of the time there was nobody there. Maybe the satellite had no permanent humanoid residents, I never did find out. But the toilet was dead quiet, and uninvitingly frigid. Only a constant faint hum of what could be an air circulation system can be heard, plus the random gritty whirring of the robot’s servos as she moved about. And speaking of the air, the lavatory smelled strongly of cheap apple scented sanitizing chemicals, masking the slight odor of chlorinated water and urine.
Then the robot told me that she is very lonely, as she slowly scrubbed a portion of a wall, the sponge on her hand developing just a hint of detergent foam. I could tell by her “face” that she is indeed lonely. Or maybe she just looked lonely because her face is actually just sagging, tired and dilapidated. Her eyes are two incandescent bulbs glowing dimly. Somehow it didn’t surprise me one bit that this machine is capable of emotion; like it was a given fact. She goes on to tell me with her digital tone corrected voice that, although she was designed to be capable of perfectly communicating to humanoids using their language, no one ever bothered to talk to her. She gets one, maybe two “visitors” to her lavatory in a day, yet not a word was spoken. You would think that a robot wouldn’t care less, but this one was clearly depressed.
I couldn’t say anything, and just stood there listening, trying to show empathy. I can sense that the robot was grateful that there is finally someone who is at least listening if not speaking to her. She went on with her task, which seemed futile. Why would a virtually unused toilet have to be constantly scrubbed? Was it the only way to keep them from pulling the plug on her? She went on to speak and told me that the last time she was able to talk to someone was years ago, when she was swapped with the male janitor of the second satellite and was able to briefly meet and talk to that other janitor at the transport bay…
Then I awoke with a heavy heart.