Friday, December 3, 2010


It seems as if the Roomba craze has subsided, and I don't know whether that is because it didn't really work or what. I never used one, but I was always intrigued by the alleged intelligence it displayed in the course of its work. Once activated in a new place, its first task was to map out the space which it was charged with cleaning. It would systematically test the boundaries of the place and remember them so that it might clean it efficiently and without violating Asimov's laws of robotics. Lately, I've been something like a Roomba. The reason is this place I've moved into. Each of the previous apartment buildings I've lived in here was of modest size at most. Only one contained more than a few units, and even that one was quite simple to grasp. An entrance at one end led to the street and one at the other to the parking lot. The others were humbler still, with no complexity to speak of.

This building I'm in now is not like those. I guess it's not different from the apartment-style dormitories I lived in during college, but I don't recall very well the early days in them when I was, as now, a human Roomba bouncing around in search of parameters. The difference between myself and the robot is that my meanderings are far from systematic, and I am slow to remember what I learn by dint of such aimless surveys. Also, no matter what the competence it actually displays in cleaning, it's undoubtedly my superior in that respect. Furthermore, while it earns no income, it has a steady job. Actually, the more I go into it, the less favorable the comparison grows, so you'll surely be understanding if I move on to the main point I was trying to make.

This building may be bigger and more complicated than any I've lived in for years, but the first order of business is unchanged: to determine the quickest way in and out of this labyrinthine structure. I think that I've worked that out. Beyond that, I must discover how I get to various destinations within the building, as this is one of the few places I've lived that immediately presented me with points of interest apart from my own living space. Friends of mine live here, and I enjoy visiting them as much as ever, but now fear intrusion on their privacy as a result of unannounced visits, so I feel I must now knock. As I had previously visited them, I knew already how to get to their unit from the lobby, but now come to it as often as not from above. That took some figuring. Additionally, the building offers amenities which necessitate that I find my way around my own floor and others.

Apart from the spatial stuff I'm learning, there are many mechanisms around here I must learn to use. It's tricky for me. The great comfort I cling to these days is the knowledge that I'm here to stay. I have a stake in this place. I'm not leaving in two months or three weeks, so what I glean from these early experiences will not become useless information to me. I can count on benefitting from it. I can grow attached to the things I see and experienced, just as I must expend the effort necessary to fix the things that aren't working for me. I look forward to it all, even those character-building things during whose completion I will wonder what I was thinking when I wrote of such anticipation.

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