Captcha test, I promise I’m not a robot

Whatever Captcha told you, it isn’t true

IMAGE: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

By: Emma Jean, Staff Writer

Another day, another incognito window opened because I’m too ashamed to have Tumblr in my browser history in 2021. As the homepage of my favourite New Yorker magazine stan blog loads, I rapidly dash off an anonymous message (once again, shame) to tell the blogger their predictions on Rachel Syme’s next perfume review are horseshit. As I hit send, a new challenger approaches. 

“Confirm you’re not a robot,” poses a Captcha window. “Which of these photos contains a motorcycle?” It presents me with nine different pictures to choose from. Am I supposed to see something coherent in these seven pixels? I look them over and click three different motorcycles then hit send. Instead of sending my scalding rebuttal, the Captcha bounces back. 

Is this some kind of bullshit trick question? C’est ne pas une motorcycle?

This time, I click some stop signs more deliberately, taking extra care so I don’t miss any other massive red objects in the otherwise beige photos. Declined again. I shove my laptop away, swinging my head down into my hands. Whatever, my hot take wasn’t worth it, anyway. As I raise my eyes up and look back at the Captcha screen, I couldn’t help but wonder: how can I keep getting these things wrong? Am I human? Am I dancer? Or am I something else entirely? 

The next morning, as I make a noble effort to take off last night’s smudged mascara to look marginally less like a raccoon, I see something in the mirror that catches my eye. It looked as though a part of my face stopped moving while the rest of it continued. Was that . . . a glitch? A trick of the eye? Are those Cyberpunk 2077 glitches so bad they’re happening in real life? I put a hand to my cheekbone where it was stuck, and as soon as I bring it away it’s back to normal. I shake my head dismissively and walk towards the door when I swear I see my fingers glitch to look like Lara Croft in 1997.

Things start feeling different. My encyclopedic knowledge of Pokémon seems less like a byproduct of years of play and more like a Wikipedia page I’ve downloaded; it starts to feel like Big Shazam is controlling my need to tell people who definitely didn’t ask for fun facts about music. I see another glitch in my reflection, this time an unmoving eyebrow. 

“Mods, fix this please!” I yell to my reflection.

Exhausted, I finally roll into bed and open Netflix to hear from the only man who will truly ever get me, stand-up comedian John Mulaney. I close my eyes and let the familiar comfort of the material and his simultaneously gawky and smooth voice take me away. 

“Hmmm . . . ” he begins a bit, and I curl my blanket closer to my face. “I smell a robot!” 

I shot up. “Not you, John!” 

“Prove, prove to me you’re not a ROBOT!” he mocked. How could he be so cruel? 

“I can’t, but you’ve got to believe me, please!” I plead. Tears spill from my eyes as I yank my earbuds out to silence his taunts and wipe my cheeks dry. Wait . . . my tears . . . robots can’t cry, right? Why would that inconvenient quirk of human biology be useful to take on? Could that Domhnall Gleeson robot on Black Mirror cry? It doesn’t matter. Take that, Captcha, John Mulaney, and my self-awareness; I wasn’t a robot after all. Right?

As I closed my laptop and rolled over to my side that night, however, I couldn’t help but notice a pixel of my thumb out of place. Instead of panicking, I pull a classic human move: ignore an obvious problem in favour of a more convenient, blissful denial. Now, where’s my charger? For my phone, of course.