Aunt Katy vs Machines

Written to Nephew Ray,
editor of the local weekly newspaper,
in a fit of frustration, February, 1966.

Dear Nephew Ray

You must have experienced the exasperation of having your typewriter decide to spell in M'bobo instead of English in spite of all your furious fingers can do to control its mechanical processes. It must be even worse when you are using the linotype machine. Have you ever stopped to think how dependent we are on the whims of automata?

No more do we waken to Chanticleers call or to the strident clamor of a nickle-plated Big Ben. Now our slumbers are invaded by soft music which gently lifts us to a point of consciousness where we are assaulted by the insistent hoarse buzz of the electric clock-radio alarm. BUT - my clock-radio has developed the ability to play on -after- the off button has been depressed. This severely depresses ME.

Repeated jabs at said button avail naught. Finally, after madly jamming all four tabs until my fingers are bruised and I am about to pull the plug, the radio will swallow its music with a click and subside into a dull murmur, denoting the passing of time. I now collapse weakly on my pillow, in no mood to meet the day but too awake to go back to slumberland and badly in need of coffee.

At night the clock dial glimmers greenly while grinding wheels controlling its pasty white hands growl in a menacing manner. After a visit from young grandchildren, I am apt to be wakened halfway through the night by a blast of music, or early in the morning when a cheerful-voiced commentator is giving the hog report. Perhaps it is time to replace this instrument of torture.

Breakfast is not complete without toast, I'm sure you will agree. Modern automatic toasters receive the proffered slice, judge moisture content, and proceed to cook both sides of the bread at once. The machine may stubbornly refuse to swallow the bread, spit it out half warmed, or gleefully roast it to a charred cinder. There are toasters which pop up the slice so violently that it is flung half way across the room, forcing the toastee to catch it in mid-flight to prevent it landing in the coffee or disappearing behind the stove.

At one time I had a kind of rack that fit over the stove burner on which I could make delicious, crisp toast. Of course, I had to watch it carefully but so had I to watch my first electric toaster. That toasted one side of the slice at a time and I could peek in to check the shade of tan before opening and turning the slice to toast the other side. More work but worth the effort.

Vacuum cleaners are known to suffer from severe intestinal disorders brought on by gulping such indigestibles as tacks, pins, drapery hooks, long pieces of string, pencil stubs, and stones from the fish tank. The best first aid for a cleaner is to heed any change in its tone of voice and stop immediately to remove the offending tidbit from its mouth before it can swallow.

All mechanical contrivances are in league with the masculine world in an all-out effort to prove women should have remained in the cave. Witness the hurt look on a repairman's face or the incredulous expression on a husband when one of their handy-dandy-easy-to-operate-thing-a-ma-bobs goes wrong in the hands of the bewildered homemaker. Men do the inventing, using their own particular brand of logic and undeniable ingenuity to produce a complicated apparatus to do the job women have done for generations with a large knife and a chopping block, or a sturdy broom. I think they do it just to have the secret satisfaction of watching womenkind go mad trying to cope with their innovations.

How often does a woman struggle valiantly to start her car, trying every trick she has been told by her husband or mechanic, only to have a man, any man, slide behind the wheel and bring the engine roaring to life? If she is wise she will not insist she has done exactly the same things but will smile thankfully and have a quiet talk with the vehicle when they are alone.

No man will admit the conspiracy. Further proof that it does exist lies in the perversity of washers, dryers, mixers, etc which groan, grumble, jiggle, and vibrate ominously until a man enters the room. Suddenly they are purring like a well-fed kitten in a room full of canaries. But just wait until he leaves! Eventually the thing goes too far and grinds to an immovable halt. (If it is a washer, it is full of water and urgently needed dirty clothes.) Again here is a time to keep still when asked why warnings of impending breakdown were not reported, for no man will remember ever hearing mention of the machine's threats.

What does a defenseless woman do with steam-less steam-irons, spitting percolators, dancing dish-washers, flipping television sets, and clock-radios which refuse to turn off? She may threaten the tormentor with electricity starvation, buy a new appliance, go back to the old way, or simply admit defeat and call in the scoffing male.

Brave is the woman who sleeps under an electric blanket, sits in a vibrator chair, or steps into an electrically agitated bath. Foolish is she who arms herself with a screwdriver and pliers to attack an offending appliance on her own. Not only will the machine gloat in her inevitable defeat at the sight of its tangle of wires, but the repair man to whom she much finally take it will demand in an irate voice WHO has been mucking about with its insides.

It is hopeless. Women are doomed to a life of stuck zippers, erupting toasters, clattering cleaners, and scornful men. However, if it helps our men feel they have the upper hand in even this small arena, we should be able to stand the strain. Thopugy I do disloke javing mu letters to my gavirite nephew emerge form the typewriter in M'bobo.

Uncle Jos sends regards as do I

Your Aunt Katy