For more than 40 years, as I have grown from tot to tottering on my pins, I have dreamed that once this machine is in my house, it will cook, clean, plan the meals, shop for the produce and groceries, phone the electrician, plumber and the WiFi man when necessary — and have an aneurysm on my behalf waiting for them to arrive — and basically take care of every domestic hardship that has ever existed.
I have even imagined that this machine will deal with the paperwork — the entire forests’ worth of paperwork, my god — that we all must do from before birth to after-death or else we will technically not exist. Not to mention ensure that my signature remains the same from my teens to the end of my life, so that banks can’t laugh evilly and refuse to give me my money, because the signature on the cheque doesn’t match the one in their system.
And every time I have to make a call to a customer helpline because the washing machine is doing the tango again, I envisage this magical machine of mine subverting the IVR machine at the other end of the line that intones: ‘Welcome to Dante’s First Circle of Hell, otherwise known as Limbo. If you want to go mad, press 1. If you want to go mad without tearing your hair out because you’re already balding hahahaha, press 2. If you’d rather take us to consumer court, press # to repeat the menu, you loser.’
So, it came as a bit of a shock to me yesterday afternoon when my phone — the one that is allegedly smart — showed that it was actually a nasty and malicious de-vice when it refused to notify me that work — paying work! — had arrived in my inbox until it was nearly too late for me to earn that pay. Do you know how hard it is to get work that allows you to buy more than one potato these days?
As I began the yogic deep-breathing that would be the only thing that would stop me from flinging this spiteful and malevolent device out of the window and braining a not-so-innocent pigeon, it struck me that no human being I know has ever been happy with the machines in their lives. Oh, we love their convenience, sure. But do we love them? No.
You already have evidence that my — ha! — smartphone is not so smart. Anything less intelligent I have never seen, and that includes my Kindle that every so often turns its language setting from English to Arabic for no reason I can fathom, which I cannot change back to English without video-calling a linguist for help. Because I cannot read Arabic.
You already know that my washing machine does the tango when it should be focused on cleaning my laundry. While the washing machine does impress me with its grace — I once signed up for dance classes, but was so defeated by the steps to the jive that I never even made it to salsa, leave alone tango — the fact is that it lacks any sort of culture. It notes the end of its washing cycle with a tinny version of Beethoven’s Für Elise, which means it should be doing some kind of waltz, not the tango. Duh.
And let’s not get started on the fridge, the water-filter machine and all the other gadgets that populate my home. If I actually had a Rosie or Irona in my life, I bet you anything that it would implant me with some kind of non-edible chip and make me do all the work I’m already doing.