By Sue Murphy
Fact: To become a friend of the library in the small New England town where my parents grew up, I had to prove that I was not a robot. Fact #2: I didn’t make it.
I had no idea that robot library patronage was such a problem. Are there covert bands of robots plotting to take over the craft fair? Would the silent auction be reduced to complete silence? Is there a fear that rebel robot battalions will buy up all of the commemorative pavers for their cohorts, “B Q 718” and “Mr. and Mrs. R2D2”? Actually, I have no idea whether robots are allowed to get married in Connecticut. They might have to hyperlink to New York City or someplace more AI tolerant.
If the robot threat is real, I’m glad the library folks are rallying their defenses, but are they doing enough? Right now, you just have to identify street signs. You don’t have to know what the signs say, just be able to locate them – or not – in a series of landscape photographs. The aforementioned street signs are not necessarily front and center in the pictures, however, and there were a number of gray areas. Literally, there was a lot of gray, and besides that, I could have used some clarification. Is a motel sign that stands next to the street considered a street sign? I chose to think so, and I don’t know if that was what caused my library friend access to be denied, but when I go back and try again (and I will) I’ll mark my selection the other way.
The other problem is that my eyesight isn’t what it used to be, and by “used to be,” I mean back in fifth grade. After that, I wore thick glasses and then thicker contacts. Back then, both eyes had to process everything (or try). Now, my contacts have each been assigned a specific area of concern. One eye handles things in the distance and the other stays closer to home and reads.
The system worked beautifully until I went to get my official Star ID. Now there’s some security for you. First of all, you have to show up in person so the examiners can see for themselves that you are not a robot. You also have to bring along several forms of identification. Your U.S. passport (that is interchangeable with the Star ID as far as the airlines are concerned) is not enough. I guess I understand that. I mean, passports are issued by the State Department and you can’t be sure who is the head of that group from one day to the next. No, to get a Star ID, you will need the corroboration of the gas company and other equally reliable sources.
Thankfully, I had everything I needed. I thought I was home free until the examiner said there was a required eye test, and not one of those “Read the lowest line you can make out” wall numbers, either. I’d have to peer into a visor where my eyes would be tested one at a time. I told the examiner that only one of my eyes was up for the job, but the Star ID people have their rules. With great trepidation, I peered into the visor, and with a lot of squinting and a couple of guesses, I passed.
So, here I am, an official Star ID recipient – but not a friend of the small town library. I will try again. Trust me, people. I am not a robot.