Rage Against the Machines

I’ve never gotten along with any of my appliances, and I'm pretty sure they feel the same way about me

Anybody out there got a sledgehammer?

This weekend, a tech-savvy friend is coming over for brunch — bagels, lox, cream cheese and whatever else we can scrounge up — in exchange for hooking up our new HP all-in-one desktop. A pretty fair barter arrangement, I’d say. Our friend plans to bring along some kind of doodad for wiping the detritus from our old hard drive. But, as I understand it, despite enormous advances in computer technology, there remains but one surefire way of destroying ALL the data on the drive and that’s the old-fashioned way — taking the clunky thing out back and beating the shit out of it with a large instrument.

Hey, it works for me.

Those of a certain age may recall a vintage Woody Allen standup bit about his deeply dysfunctional relationships with his household appliances. As his toaster and alarm clock fail to respond to reason, threats or fondling, Woody’s frustration boils over until he cracks and bashes his balky TV set to smithereens. The next day he gets on one of those talking elevators, which asks if “you’re the guy who beat up the television.”

The elevator jostles him about the cab and tosses him out on the wrong floor.

That routine has resonated with me for 50 years. I’ve never gotten along with any of my appliances, including every glass-shattering dishwasher, inert ceiling fan and one-year-and-done air conditioner. And don’t get me started on the car. One day, I’d love to host a reunion for all my old appliances and bash them all to bits.

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And, let’s be honest, I’m not the only deranged soul out there harboring these dark and violent ideations. There must be something that accounts for the enduring popularity of “Office Space,” and it isn’t the acting or the cinematography. It’s the utter thrill and delight of watching the three uber-losers go medieval on the printer, to the tune of the Geto Boys’ “Die, Motherfucker, Die.” Now that’s entertainment.

If you search the Internet, you’ll find all manner of websites for haters of specific appliance brands. Lots of folks have it in for Frigidaire and Kenmore and Black & Decker. But there appears to be a dearth of cyber-content for us generic appliance haters, who, for want of a better description, are usually referred to as “technophobes.”

I’m not completely comfortable with that term. As it’s normally used, it relates to the fear and loathing of advanced technological organisms and complex devices, especially computers. Much of technophobia is ideologically based, like that of the 19th-century Luddites and the Amish, who hold that modern technology threatens their belief systems and their ways of life. Libertarians and other political thinkers envision the advent of powerful new technologies ushering in an Orwellian nightmare.

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My more prosaic technophobia, by comparison, goes back even further, all the way back to Benjamin Franklin and my diabolical childhood friend Gordon, who would sneak up behind me during electrical experiments in high school physics class, grab my shoulders and shout “bzzzz.” I’d freak out and toss whatever equipment I was holding into the air. The teacher’s response to these hijinks was a D on my report card.

Things haven’t gotten any better as I’ve grown older. Just yesterday, the database management system at work kicked me out and deleted my client assessment summary. That’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back. Last week, our home printer, as it often does, went on a jag, printing out a forest full of gibberish. And there’s that car of mine. The almost indiscernible dent on the fender came to $1,500. “There’s a lot of important electronic shit under there,” said the smiling body shop mechanic.

Truth is, I do admire people who can fix things or put them together. Indeed, some of my proudest moments emerged from changing a flat, changing the motor oil or programming the VCR. Nevertheless, when it comes to a choice between rewiring an appliance or smashing it, well, you know how I come down.

Die, motherfucker, die.

Tags: technology