10/13/08

Roborto in the testing center

A tall and thin man waits in line at the testing center. The line, stuffed full of students, weaves throughout the room and presses against the white walls. A white, human-sized robot, rounded edges softening its square shape, follows closely behind the man, who is five students from the front.

“What’s that?” a freshman behind the man asks.

“This is Roborto, my Spanish-speaking robot. I’m taking a Spanish test, and he’s going to help me.”

“Is that allowed?”

“Oh, this is technically a seeing-eye robot. This is the future. It’s allowed.”

The man thought about the ethics of pretending to be blind in order to have a robot help him on an exam. The thought fluttered through his mind like a butterfly, then danced away with a smile.

In the testing center, cramped into a desk, the man hunches over a red and pink bubble sheet and a photocopy of a multiple-choice test. His right hand squeezes a pencil.

“¿Roborto, qué es numero siete?” he whispers.

“NUMERO SIETE ES 'B' SENOR.”

“Gracias, Roborto.”

Several students lift their heads and stare at Roborto, who is also stuffed into a desk. His smooth robot knees barely fit under the little table. A test proctor wearing round gold earrings and glasses walks towards the man, bends down, and asks him a question:

“Sir, could you please turn the volume down on your robot?”

“I’m sorry,” the man replies. “It’s as low as it will go, and I have to have him.”

“Well, sir, he…”

“Roborto.”

“Yes, um, Roborto…he is disrupting other students. If he continues to disrupt the testing center, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to remove him.”

“This is my seeing-eye robot. By law, I’m allowed to have him. If you try to make me remove Roborto, you’ll be discriminating. That’s discrimination, and I don’t have to take it.”

The proctor’s face went from being a polite smile to a blank expression. She stood up, turned around, and walked to the back of the room.

“¿Roborto, qué es numero ocho?”

“NUMERO OCHO ES 'A' SENOR.”

“Muchas gracias, Roborto.”

13 comments:

Matthew R. Hall, Esq. said...

Sometime stories are just nice and they don't have to have points or morals.

Or maybe it's actually a metaphor. I dunno.

Eric James said...

Well I liked it. It was a breath of needed fresh air.

E. Anona said...

It was silly. BYU-Idaho is a private university. It can discriminate if it wants to.

Britt said...

So i was trying to guess who wrote this. you wanna know what gave it away? "This is the future".

Emily Goodsell said...

Wait--I'm confused. At first I thought this was some kind of Ray Bradbury Science Fiction short story. This is true? A man really did this?

iBo said...

Empo, as Star Wars as BYUI gets, could you really see a man with a Spanish seeing eye robot here?

Julie M said...

Yes.

Julie M said...

Nothing about BYU-Idaho astonishes me anymore. Good or bad. Just talk to Jami, EmPo, and I about the lovely battles we've had to fight just to graduate. Ah, the joys.

Dan said...

Even though Sister Morgan doesn't like this story, I think it's hilarious. You should write chapter two. You could submit it to the Pre-professional Conference in the Creative Non-fiction category. It would fit right in with the giant chicken story that was "not a true story." And if that doesn't work, we'll just have to start planning the Post-professional Conference.

Sky said...

Ya know, Matt, I wouldn't even bother to comment on this piece if I didn't know that somewhere deep inside you, hidden behind trees and garbage cans, is a real writer.

There are no just "nice" stories, Matt, except stupid stories. It can't be a metaphor either--without a point. All good writing has some sort of a point or some sort of morality (find me one that doesn't). The morality showing (and whether you like it or not, it IS there) in this piece is disturbing. However, this could be a fairly good piece easily, if you turned yourself into the tall, thin man. I'm serious.
I wish you'd write more for YOU than for an audience (not advice I would give anyone else), because who's the "performer" here?
Also, what's fun or funny about this piece? Cheating? Disabilities and entitlement? A bureaucratic administration gone mad trying to help those less fortunate than we are? The stupidity of the workers and students in the testing center? Or the stupidity and morality of the readers? SHOW ME THE FUN here.
Maybe it's because I have good friends coping with heartache presently they can't even believe fell into their lives; maybe because I just watched a documentary on a woman who survived the genocide in Uganda; or maybe because my gay son--who's brilliant--just flunked out of school since he can't concentrate, I have a hard time finding "fun" in this piece. But aside from all that, I think the piece is silly--in a dangerous way. This comment is sure to bring a comment from Chan, the defender of all, which I dread, but if I believe in writing as an Art form of the highest kind, I have to get into this debate. And so do you.

Matthew R. Hall, Esq. said...

After serious thinking about this, I've come to three conclusions.

First, even quasi-fictional worlds need to be properly developed in order to be believable.

Second, and most importantly, one cannot introduce serious ethical dilemmas without deliberately and respectfully crafting them into the piece--it is irresponsible to throw such weighty topics around without care.

Finally, even stupid Spanish robot stories reveal a lot about the author's psyche. I was going to analyze myself as an objective observer, but didn't feel like following through with it.

Sister Morgan, your time is not wasted on me.

Sky said...

All I can say is that you continue to amaze me. I lose all hope, then you show such humility and tenacity that I'm ashamed.
Or is this an act, you little Twerp.
By the way, Happy Birthday.

Crystal said...

Ignoring all the issues, debates, etc., I just have to say that I loved the robot's name.