For me, the machine takeover began when a Coke machine stole my dime. Big, red and shiny, it resembled a metallic Santa Claus. Yet its friendly exterior hid a chilly heart.
Decades later, I am still at odds with machines. Especially those that tell me what to do.
Many contemporary machines keep their requests polite. My car dings apologetically when I forget to turn off its lights. My husband’s truck, however, peals like Big Ben, even when its belly bulges with $45 worth of gas.
“Don’t you dare talk to me in that tone!”
Does it listen to me? Never.
My Keurig coffee maker smarts off, too. Sure, its screen requests, “More water, please,” but it flashes an on-off light that betrays sarcasm. Reminds me of kids who demand ironed gym clothes, please (eye rolls).
The Information Age forces computers on us, sneaky machines that pose huge challenges to those who consider Ziploc® bags high tech. Don’t trust those friendly log-in welcomes. Do computers ever eat files like “My Worst Golf Scores” or “Breakfasts I Ate in 1993?” No-o-o. Mine devours IRS records and my newly finished novels. When feeling really rowdy, it emails eye-popping website links to my relatives.
I first encountered self-checkout machines at a grocery. A Voice welcomed me enthusiastically, then instructed me to scan my first item: a Death by Chocolate cake for my daughter’s college graduation. I found the UPC symbol on the cover’s bottom. Rats.
“Scan the first item and place it in the bag.” No “please.”
“I’d have to flip it over.” I held out my item for the machine to see. “It doesn’t fit in the bag. It’s a cake. An expensive cake!”
Now the ominous Voice demanded, “Scan the first item. Place it in the bag, or else.”
“I’ll bet you wouldn’t if it was your daughter’s cake!” I swung a fist at the monitor.
I’d swear it ducked.
“If you had half a brain, you could do this,” the Voice boomed.
I haven’t visited that store since. The restraining order might have something to do with that. …
I’ve heard self-checkouts now have better manners. Though with my luck, I’ll use one related to that first cake-hater. And wear the next cake I buy.
All this began with that long-ago Coke machine. I occasionally encounter its thieving descendants and fight the childhood urge to spit at them. See, machines can’t do that! Instead, I check coin returns. Once I found a quarter. Given inflation, the machine didn’t repay me for its ancestor’s larceny. But it tried.
I smiled and patted its shiny red side. That’s something machines can’t do yet, either.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are machines your friends or enemies?