Anger toward machines proves we're only human

Conflict: Rage seems to be escalating as technology becomes more like us.

October 25, 1999|By Jim Shea | Jim Shea,HARTFORD COURANT

It could have been me.

That's the first thing that came to mind when I read about a guy named Guy who was arrested in Chippewa Falls, Wis., for shooting his washing machine.

Seems old Guy got in some kind of a beef with the machine, which escalated to the point where he pushed it down a flight of stairs, into the driveway, pulled out a gun and shot it three times.

The story didn't say what the spat was over, who started it, what condition the washer is in or if this type of thing goes on a lot in Chippewa Falls.

I don't mean to imply that I have shot a washing machine, or any other appliance for that matter, because I haven't.

However, I am not a pacifist.

Over the years, I have slapped a fair share of televisions upside the picture tube, banged around some hair dryers, rattled a couple of radios and, in a regrettable incident, had to be physically restrained after trying to choke a Cuisinart.

But I've never shot anything, and probably never will. The reason I can say this with a fairly high degree of certainty is due to a fear of imprisonment.

I have this nightmarish vision of standing around in a prison yard with a couple of hardened lifers and the following conversation taking place:

"So what are you in for?"

"Murder."

"You?"

"Mass murder."

"What about you, new guy? What did you do?"

"I, well, I shot a Maytag but I laughed when I did it."

(Not to get off the track here, but shouldn't there be a separate correctional facility for people convicted of crimes like appliance rage and ripping the tags off mattresses?)

Anyway.

While I am not proud of my violent outbursts, I have come to realize my behavior is fairly mainstream.

If you doubt this, think about how many times you have witnessed someone wrestle a 400-pound vending machine over a quarter. There's obviously more going on there than the money.

But what?

I think it comes down to a personification conflict.

We have infused the machines of our lives with so many human qualities, we can no longer stand them.

And with good reason. The appliance has gone from being a humble servant to being a supercilious, condescending pain in the microprocessor.

(If you have ever spent time with someone who has gone to prep school, you will know what I mean. There is almost no discernible difference between the average preppie's personality and that of the latest "smart" stoves.)

Although the anger we feel toward the appliance is often repressed, there is a simple way to determine its depths.

The next time you walk past the computer and it is cheerfully scrolling the message "Have a nice day," note your reaction. Is it:

"Right back at ya."

Or...

"Draw."

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.