I really shouldn’t be surprised by my reaction.
I was stunned and saddened by the fate of HitchBOT. I want to disbelieve the reports, that HitchBOT has been damaged beyond repair, that its parents can’t save it somehow. I want to know that there is a friendly little robot roaming the US, relying on the kindness of strangers and that strangers are treating him humanely.
I am easily saddened and upset when people, animals, and inanimate objects that cannot defend themselves or care for themselves are harmed.
Last year, I identified with the 5-year-old who was upset when he heard about Voyager being all alone in space. What if it gets lonely? What if it breaks down? Who would fix Voyager? And I thought, “Oh my gosh, yes. Poor Voyager! This is awful.” I suddenly wanted to join the child in hugging Voyager.
An astronaut tried to address the child’s concerns, explaining that Voyager is happy to be on its mission; it was kind of a “fulfilling-its-destiny” speech. “Does that make you feel better,” the astronaut asked? “No,” the child replied, echoing my own feelings.
My status as The Protector of All Things Penguin at work grew out of my protecting the stuffed penguin that was routinely attacked (until it came under my foster care). My role has morphed into protector of animals in general…coworkers seem to realize that any joke about attacking animals—or balloons—will set me off.
Several weeks ago, after blowing up dozens and dozens of balloons, my coworkers talked about the fun they’d have in popping them. I gasped. “Noooo.” My boss responded, “How did you think this was going to end well for the balloons, Amy?” Wringing my hands, I sputtered, “I thought they would live out their balloon destiny.” (Interestingly, several balloons on the floor migrated towards my desk where they have found sanctuary, still living out their lives weeks later.)
So it shouldn’t be surprising that news of HitchBOT’s demise brings me distress. I want it not to be. I want HitchBOT to have a safe and fun journey across America, scratching items off of its bucket list. I want it to cross my path so we can exchange a few words and perhaps a hug.
A happy robot was looking for kindness from strangers and was ruthlessly destroyed. I prefer to pretend that it is still out there somewhere…and I’ll cross paths with it someday.