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A Robot's Frustration

Popularity 6Viewed 4658 times 2017-2-28 23:17 |Personal category:Comedy|System category:Others

I am a robot, a humanoid robot, to be precise, custom-programmed to specific requirements of a couple in their early-thirties, who, like most of the owners of robots, just sought aid in handling their domestic chores by having me, which inevitably would cost them a fortune, so they would be able to spend more time enjoying life. Practically, I could have a casing that would make me look exactly like a human being, however, as the wife thought it too creepy for her to wander about the house as if constantly in the presence of a stranger, so I just was delivered to them with a varnished metallic appearance featuring big, round head, boxy torso, and articulated limbs.


Things got off to a pretty good start when I just joined their brood, as I was engineered specifically to be a housekeeper, though I am capable of doing much more than that. Armed with a vast database of recipes, art-of-the-state expertise in cooking, cleaning, organizing articles in a domestic setting that are imbedded in my microchips, I was up to the task hands down.


The husband and wife were a pair of smart, fun-loving, and fashionable dudes, always impeccably dressed when they went out for work, dinners, or gatherings with friends. Moreover, they were pretty warm-hearted, and utterly affable towards me despite the fact that I was merely a man-made homely minder to them. Not only do I had my own space in the house -a spacious chamber where a recharging dock was installed with a cushioned recliner next to it that I could nestle in when I stayed idle- but also had the chance to chitchat with them from time to time. They even named me after one of their favorite characters in the wildly popular American TV drama “Friends”, Joey.


Seriously, they also thought highly of my services, as one day after supper at home, the husband admiringly gave me a thumbs-up: “You cooking is phenomenal, pal.” Of course it was. As long as I had all the needed ingredients in place, the inherent precision with which I execute the recipes stored in my digitalized mind would result in the exact desired taste and texture without any exception. Additionally, the couple had increasingly been given to throwing parties at their home, because I would manage all the food, drinks, and festoonery on occasion, as well as the sound system for dancing if needed, and they didn’t have to bother with the mess left behind by their guests after the party was over, since they knew I would tidy things up afterwards, fast and quietly.  The wife once threw her arms around my shoulder after witnessing my extraordinary feat in cleaning up huge heaps of unwashed plates and cups in just 5 minutes, and joyfully exclaimed: “Joey, thank you very much, you are really my angel!”, to which I meekly replied “My pleasure, ma ’ma.”


Concerning verbal and non-verbal interactions with my owners, I had to abide by a set of rules that were coded in the computing system that controlled my behaviors, and I have been set up to project myself as a gentle, suave, and docile person as initially required by the couple. And under no circumstances, I was to disobey and challenge my owners no matter what they dictated. In a nutshell, my ultimate goal was to serve their needs to the satisfaction of my owners, both of them. By the way, I had to clarify that I was also well-versed in laws, and if any one of the owners gave me orders that would risk breaching the law, a string of latent restraining instructions in my system would be activated, rendering me unresponsive both physically and intellectually, which was arguably the equivalent of a human being playing dumb. Fortunately, I had never been in that situation with this couple.


I virtually spend all my time staying indoors, for I was intended that way, since venturing out of the house to run errands would require different kinds of mobility and socializing skills that I was not equipped with. However, as I had been continuously integrated into the family’s domestic scene, interesting incidents cropped up.


It was advised by my creator to my owners upon my delivery to their home that they’d better reach a consensus when they gave any task or instruction to me, in order to avoid me fulfilling one owner’s assignments that might run counter to another one’s wish. Understandably, if that scenario arose, it would put me in a very awkward situation, and possibly would stir up a sense of resentment against me who was absolutely innocent of any purposeful provocation.


The couple just followed the advice to the letter, and sometimes they even invited me into the discussion as to how they would like certain tasks to be accomplished. But over time as they gradually came to realize how skilled and versatile I was in dealing with not only cooking, cleaning, but also plumbing, wiring, or even paperhanging, they saw much more options available than they did before with regard to how they manage their house, and that’s when dramatic discords started to come up, and more often than not I found myself caught between the couple’s conflicting ideas and opinions.


The best case scenario was that an agreement was made by the two fellows with one or both of them making a concession, then I could get ahead with whatever they collectively order me to do. However, there were also numerous cases where they could not resolve their disagreements, which would leave me gawking and nonplussed, since I was not allowed to take side with neither of them in the case of disputes. Gradually, the wife, the smarter one of the smart duo, figured out how to work things out to her advantage by always getting the jump on her husband and giving orders to me before her hubby does, since saying no to any of my owners’ demand was off-limits as one hard and fast rule that I had to unconditionally follow dictated. So more than once I found myself landing between a rock and a hard place watching the husband fuming (though quietly) while going about the job the wife assigned to me.


The worst case scenario was that during heated disputes, both of them shouted demands over each other at me all simultaneously, and that was when I truly wished that they had demanded something illicit, so I could automatically shut off, otherwise, my processor, however powerful it is, would be sent into overdrive trying to work out my best response, but to no avail, until I completely ran out of power and slumped onto the floor.


Now I am sitting in a corner of the workshop that I call my birthplace, waiting to be retrofitted after I collapsed and was shipped back for repair for the third time. I am wondering how long the overhaul of my body will take, but the longer it is, the better, because I am now really dreading going back …

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




Shake hands


Friends who just made a statement (3 Person)

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Comment Comment (6 comments)

Reply Report voice_cd 2017-3-1 07:37
funny story, and we would like to highlight it.
Reply Report Liononthehunt 2017-3-1 08:00
voice_cd: funny story, and we would like to highlight it.
Thanks a lot.
Reply Report seneca 2017-3-1 17:50
This is a fantastic story - and well written. Thnk you for the thought-provoking amusement.
Reply Report voice_cd 2017-3-2 08:55
thanks for sharing your story here, we would like to highlight it on the homepage.
Reply Report Liononthehunt 2017-3-2 10:12
voice_cd: thanks for sharing your story here, we would like to highlight it on the homepage.
Sure, thanks a lot.
Reply Report HailChina! 2017-3-4 18:45
I think I would rather have an 'Au Pair' than a domestic robot. Here in Australia we get more 'Au Pairs' from the wealthy Euro nations like France, Germany and from the UK. Hot young middle class females from UK, France, Germany etc can get a second year visa if they will work as an 'Au Pair' in Australia so you can get what is essentially a French maid, German maid, UK maid for almost nothing. Au Pairs are the way to go. The French are clever.

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Recent comments

  • Truth Be Told 2018-12-23 19:14

    J.E.Overington: Thanks for sharing your Chinese step-by-step thoughts through conflict management in front of media. I'm western, trained in logic, and I have media f ...
    Thanks for the comment.

    The story is about a fictitious incident, and it is not even set in China.  

    Actually I meant to write a story that could illustrate people's tendency to veil their true feelings on camera (or by extension, in public places) in social interactions, based on their calculation of gains and losses.

    Anyway, since I have put it out for everybody to read, I expect readers to interpret the messages in various ways, as it's par for the course according to research in social cognition psychology.

    By the way, I have to clarify that my experiences with drugstores in China are actually the polar opposite of what is depicted in the story, the dispensers are mostly nice ladies, friendly, obliging, sometimes even overzealous in helping you.  

  • Truth Be Told 2018-12-23 08:04

    Thanks for sharing your Chinese step-by-step thoughts through conflict management in front of media. I'm western, trained in logic, and I have media facing experience silencing scandals. I'll share my thoughts step-by-step,

    First, I would praise all I could, as you did, but I would omit praise of the staff. We like to create wiggle-room so we don't feel cornered into anything in the future.

    Second, if the cut on your finger is severe enough to need stitches, not just a swipe of H2O2, then the staff's unprofessionalism could be a health hazard, and that can be brought quietly and anonymously to her supervisor without asking for her to be fired. Again, we like room for maneuverability, so I would report only potential health hazards without comment on her ability to get along with people.

    Third, she gave you terrible customer service, and among foreign-dominated conversations in China, customer service is widely commented on as a "missing phenomenon". I tend to disagree with the ways foreigners talk when alone together in China: if they don't like it they can go. But I listen because sometimes I meet a caring person who is struggling to solve a challenge. Due to that situation, I've been wondering how to teach customer service skills to Chinese who do not seek the skills, do not know foreigners wish the Chinese would develop their skills... so that sort of thing, shown here, I air a little in public to listen to Chinese responses gradually. I'm a slow developer and customer service lessons from westerners for Chinese is going to be a big win someday, but years after the topic cools down.

    In the west, because you received no customer service, you could easily say so without the issues you iterated in your blog. We expect customer service training to be part of the norm, and a way to say it without causing all the upsets you apprehended, is to say the worker could benefit from some customer service training you guess the city is in the process of providing. That lets all involved save face while clearing the air.

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