Don’t get me wrong. I love anything that runs on wheels, gears and/or electricity. The problem is, sometimes the gizmos don’t like me.
But I know that machines have minds and personalities, and that they are sometimes out to get me, whether for some minor infraction on my part, because they are pure evil or because they are plotting to conquer the world by messing with our minds, one person at a time.1
Take, for instance, the washing machines in the laundry room of my co-op building. One of them tried to steal my clothes.
It was one of those glorious spring nights in New York City, the kind of night that makes you stop, take a deep breath of flower-scented air, then sneeze several times while your nose curses and swears and spews out pollen. Birds were singing in the trees, squirrels were darting around on the grass, and even the local skunk was lurking, hoping to find a lady skunk and get lucky. It was a perfect time to drag a load of laundry downstairs, put it into a machine with some detergent and wash it.
In other words, I didn’t have anything better to do and I was running out of underwear.
Everybody else in the building seemed to be having the same idea. The laundry room was crowded and all of the machines were busy except one. I soon found out why.
Everything went okay until the last rinse cycle was completed. There sat my clothes, in a sodden heap, ready to be released from their watery captivity and shoved into a dryer.
Then it happened. The little red light stayed on, and the machine refused to turn itself off and release the door. My clothes were trapped.
Seeing my distress, a kind gentleman came to my rescue. He tried the traditional unplug-it-then-plug-it-back-in maneuver. It didn’t work. The machine stood there and laughed at me.
“This happens a lot with that machine,” said the gentleman. “Sometimes you just have to wait a little bit, and it will turn off.”
“How long does that take?” I asked.
“The last time it took three days,” he answered. “Some people here think it has a curse on it.”
Hearing this, I immediately began the Five Stages of Machine Malfunction Grief:
Denial – I’ll bet it isn’t really stuck. I just have to press the right button.
Anger – Open that door, you useless, robotic piece of rusty scrap metal!
Bargaining – Oh great purveyor of cleanliness! I will do anything you ask. I’ll bring in smaller loads. I’ll make sure you only get filtered water. Just please give me back my clothes!
Depression – What’s the use. I’ll hand wash my undies from now on and just buy new clothes whenever the old ones get dirty.
Acceptance – Good-bye, clothes. It was nice wearing you while you lasted.
Suddenly, I heard a click. The little red light had gone off. The door latch was released. My clothes were free, free at last.
I removed them from their soggy hole as fast as possible and put them safely into one of the dryers. I turned to the offending washer, flipped it the bird and said, “Just wait until next time.”
1 Despite evidence to the contrary, I am perfectly sane.