When I was small, I believed that all my dolls had human feelings, but now I know that really only a couple of them did. I thought of the dentist’s drill as an evil monster, and that my grandma’s gigantic old-time vacuum cleaner was totally capable of turning itself on and coming after me with the intent of sucking me up into that creepy bag. But, as time went by, I outgrew most of these silly beliefs…most, but not all.
I think that we must consider the possibility that now and then, a machine will slip by quality control with a little more than just nuts and bolts. I have two such machines living in my household.
The first example is my microwave. Now when I moved into my home, there was a built-in microwave that was old, but dependable. I thought of him like a treasured family retainer who would most likely be named Jeeves. Jeeves would do any job I required, and when he was finished, he’d ding his little chime four times to alert me, and then would quietly retreat into his proverbial “servants quarters,” so to speak. He was perfect in my eyes. Unfortunately, several months ago Jeeves passed on to Appliance Heaven. Since I am a heavy microwave user, this called for a trip to buy a replacement, as soon as possible. The new microwave is sleek and much more modern, more like a perky little French maid, and thus became Mimi. Now, all would be well except for the fact that Mimi has turned out to be a little more demanding than I’d like. She, too, does the job efficiently and she, too, chimes four times when the food or drink is ready. But, she doesn’t stop there. If I don’t drop everything at her first summons, she emits a rather loud, “MEEP!” Not being one to be pushed around by a microwave, I, at first, ignored her and finished what I was doing at the time. But damned Mimi just becomes more and more impatient and “meeps” once every minute for like…FOREVER! Now most of the time I can deal with it. But, if I’m up to my elbows in flour, cutting out sugar cookies, or up on a ladder changing a light bulb, the “meeping” becomes so annoying that I must confess that I’ve been known to yell, “SHUT THE HELL UP!” I did remember that I once had a microwave on which you could set the sound to “mute,” so I pulled out Mimi’s instruction book – but no such luck. So, alas, I am doomed to share my life with this bossy little French maid of a microwave who expects me to jump whenever she beckons, like it or not. And I don’t, let me tell you!
The other example is not so serious, but it does point out how another of my machines is suffering from “only child” syndrome. The computer I use in my home office is a 17″ Mac Powerbook and is a joy to use. He’s faithful, efficient and manages to stay healthy. I call him Miles. He’s a great machine except for one little thing – he thinks of himself as my most important machine and therefore must be the last machine I touch before leaving the room. Let me explain. If I don’t have the printer on, I can use Miles and when I’m done, put him to sleep (literally speaking) and all is well. But, if the printer is on, I must turn it off before I turn off Miles. If I forget and put him to sleep first and then turn off the printer, he’ll wait until I’ve gathered my papers and my tea and am halfway down the hall and then he turns himself back on! Strange, I know, but true. It happens every time. In my mind, Miles feels he must be the star of the office and won’t take a backseat to the Epson or Canon, which are mere printers. Consequently, I’m stuck with a computer with an ego problem.
So, I leave it to you. Just my imagination? I don’t think so. Oh, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I should just take charge and not let mere machines bully me And you’re right, I should, except…well…you see…I really can’t afford to make either one mad.