Some machines deserve to be bashed and trashed

January 12, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

Mike Royko is on vacation. In his absence, we are reprinting some of his favorite columns. This column was originally published on Jan. 9, 1980.

A friend of mine swears this happened.

It was shortly before midnight and he heard some loud voices outside the window of his first-floor apartment in the city.

He looked out and saw two men standing at the curb quarreling.

One of them held a pistol in his hand and was saying: "I told you that I was going to shoot the sonofabitch, and I'm gonna do it."

The other man said: "You shouldn't oughta do it."

The man with the gun said: "No, I told you that if it happened one more time, I was going to do it, and I'm going to. Now get out of the way."

With that, he raised the pistol and calmly blasted several holes into the hood of an old Pontiac parked at the curb.

Shoving the smoking pistol into his pocket, he snarled at the car: "There, you sonofabitch, I'm through with you."

And the two of them walked away.

My friend called the police and they rushed to the scene about half an hour later. They wrote down the license plate number and presumably they are trying to trace the man who shot his car. I'm not sure what they will do when they find him. It seems to me that a person ought to have the right to shoot his own car if the thing deserves to be shot.

And without knowing anything more about the case than these few sketchy facts, my guess is that the police will find a man who is now at peace with himself.

There comes a point in trying to deal with mechanical objects -- especially those mass-produced today -- when the only answer is violence, even murder.

I've murdered several such objects myself over the years and have felt better for it.

L I killed a TV set once, and my conscience doesn't bother me.

The TV had developed a vicious habit of flipping just when the Cub game was in a crucial situation, which was almost all the time.

I'd haul it to the repair shop, the man would tinker with it, and I'd haul it back. It would work fine for a while. Then Ernie Banks would come to bat in the last of the ninth with the score tied, dig in, wiggle his fingers; the pitcher would shake off a signal, nod his head, go into his windup. And the TV picture would start flipping.

I'd turn the horizontal control and for a moment it would stop flipping. But as soon as I sat down, it would begin again. It was as if it had a brain of its own and was trying to torture me.

It reached a point when I'd sit there, not thinking about the game, but just swearing at the TV, calling it every filthy name I could think of. And the more I swore, the more it flipped.

So one day I just pulled the plug and carried it out to the back porch.

I yelled to the people from the first floor, who were sitting in the yard, to get out of the way.

"Don't jump," they said, scrambling out of their chairs.

I threw it, and as it dropped I shouted, "Die, you lousy ------!"

Oh, I felt good when it shattered with a loud noise. And the downstairs neighbors stared up at me for a moment, went inside, and didn't sit in the back yard again for the rest of the summer. They were probably afraid I'd get mad at the washing machine.

I killed a typewriter once, too, and that isn't easy. Typewriters have a great will to live.

This one had developed all kinds of evil habits, especially when I was nearing a deadline. The ribbon wouldn't reverse. The "c" would stick. It would single-space when it was supposed to double-space. Then the "k" started sticking, too. Finally it did everything all at once.

First, I tried tearing it limb from limb, but typewriters are strong. Once I had torn off the top shield, it really resisted. I tried ripping out the keys, but they just bent a little. So I tried tearing out the letters, but the "u," or maybe it was the "f," gashed my hand in retaliation.

I managed to yank off the carriage return but that was about it. So I just picked it up and threw it at the wall, spraining my back.

Finally, I raised it above my head and smashed it to the floor. That really did it. Pieces flew all over the office. And my instep, where it landed, was swollen for a month.

The last machine I killed was a cassette recorder, and no machine ever deserved execution more.

I had used it while I interviewed a presidential candidate, and he had said some of the most wonderfully stupid things I had ever heard.

But when I played the interview back, the cassette was blank. All that stupidity was lost to history.

I put it on the floor and jumped on it, and laughed as its Japanese innards came squirting out.

That was the last machine I killed, but I've beaten up several others. Mostly coffee machines and other mechanical thieves.

Some readers may recall a column a few years ago in which I recommended not letting coffee machines and other vending devices get away with taking your money and not giving you anything. I recommended the best way to kick them. (Not with your toe. With the bottom of your foot, as if kicking down a lady's door.)

In that column, I said kicking it wouldn't get you your money back, but you'd feel better.

The response was heartwarming. Hundreds of people wrote about how much better they felt after kicking a cheating machine.

However, one young man wrote and said that he followed my advice and was happily kicking the office coffee machine when his boss came by and fired him.

"Your crazy advice cost me my job," he said. "Now what should I do?"

I told him to put my column on the floor, face up, and jump up and down on it and he'd feel better.

He said he'd try. Then he called back and said: "You're right, I feel better."

Good, I said.

"Yeah, but the landlord lives downstairs and because of all the noise, he says he wants me to move out."

Some people just can't be helped.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.