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They’re at it again. I wrote an earlier post on the unerring ability of all inanimate objects in and around your house/condominium/apartment to break on cue with a perverse spontaneity when you least expect it.
I had been overdue on giving a party for a group of party-going friends and finally, recognizing their raised eyebrows and scornful looks as I greedily sampled their food and drinks at their gatherings, I agreed to host one of my own. Two days before the start of the party – too late to cancel or find a repairman – the refrigerator decided to stop working.
The refrigerator could have chosen any time it wanted to break; for example the start of a quiet week or a day AFTER the party when I didn’t need to fill it in preparation for the festivities. But no, it knew my plans, recognized the instant of no return and – POW – just stopped working. In reality, it had been sitting there patiently waiting for just the right moment to break down. Let’s see – he’s made the invitations, he’s got all the groceries, bags and bags of ice and – NOW! – time to stop working.
I know that you think I’m anthropomorphizing, giving animate thought to a bunch of inanimate metal, wood and plastic. I’m telling you that all these devices are evil incarnate. I fully expect to wake one morning and find myself in an appliance nightmare. I’ll be a cross between Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. All the appliances, one by one, will rise up against me.
Suddenly, the alarm clock will wake me by ringing, then shouting and then scampering away on two little feet and smashing itself into the opposite wall. The shower head will rise from its own hook, twist itself up like venomous viper and start spitting hot water at me. The toaster will overheat and burn; the TV will spontaneously turn on, get brighter and brighter and explode. The phone will ring non-stop and run away when I approach it. The dishwasher will overload with suds; the dryer will spin out of control; the coffee machine will grind itself to bits; the vacuum cleaner will chase me across the living room; the ceiling fan will spin at top speed until it pries itself loose from its mount. In an act of desperation, I will cover my eyes and ears while cowering in the corner, whimpering to have them all stop until I’m met with dead silence. Slowly and carefully, I open my eyes, scan the room and then close them again in relief.
Phew, it’s all been a bad dream.
Suddenly, the alarm clock will wake me by ringing, then shouting and then scampering away on two little feet and smashing itself into the opposite wall….
How do I hate thee, let me count the ways.
No, not you, gentle reader, I mean all the goddam @#$%^&* institutions against whose impervious brick walls (both real and virtual) I pound my head every week to get lumps, bumps, concussions and migraines; everything but results. In alphabetical order, my list includes but is not restricted to:
- Appliance repair firms
- Brokerage firms
- Credit card providers
- Governments – federal, state and local
- Health care providers
- Insurance companies
- Magazine subscription services
- The telephone company (wireless and wired)
Here are some samples of head-beating agony:
- This is our policy; it can’t be changed.
- If your policy happened to result in me getting no bill at all, don’t you think your company could change that?
- Let me transfer you to someone who can help you.
- Unless the transfer goes directly to God, no help is forthcoming.
- We’re sorry for the error in your bill; we will make an adjustment in your next month’s bill.
- The next month’s bill contains the old error plus interest on the old error plus a new error. None of it in my favor.
- If you sign up this month for our [insert stupid sounding name here] card, we will reduce the interest rate on any outstanding balance from astronomical to merely heart-stopping.
- Press one for customer support; Press two for claims and billings; Press three for new inquiries; Press four for no apparent reason …
- Thank you and welcome to our automated telephone response system (translation – no human contact). Please describe in a few words the nature of your call so that we may assist you. I didn’t understand that: Did you say “… and the horse you rode in on?”
- All our agents are busy being unresponsive to other customers. Your call is very important to us. Please wait for the next available agent or the return of Haley’s comet.
- This is your 23rd and final reminder that your subscription to Sadistic Cooking is about to expire. We really mean it. If you don’t renew your subscription now, we will continue to send you reminders daily until you can’t stand it and you shoot your postman. Don’t shoot your postman; renew now!
- One of our servicemen will arrive to fix your problem between the hours of 6 am and 11 pm. An adult must be home to receive the service call. If no one answers the door within 4.3 milliseconds, we will be forced to reschedule the call for sometime in the next decade.
I had to get one of the many and never ending house repairs done the other day. It demonstrated one of the immutable laws of nature – the fix it, break it phenomenon also known as the conservation of repairs. Newton’s third law states that for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. Inanimate objects follow this law with a perverse vengeance. If you are foolish enough to attempt your own electrical, mechanical or plumbing repairs and succeed in saving a hundred bucks, the objects in your house will rise up en masse, failing in rapid succession until you have spent ten times that amount on repairs and repairmen.
I unwittingly fixed a leaking toilet one day only to find a nearly flooded basement two weeks later because my ejector pump broke. After a panicked call, my plumber, Fast Eddy, shows up, explains how bad the problem is, fixes it and relieves me of enough cash so that I can stop worrying about my next car, my next vacation or newer underwear. In fact, Fast Eddy said that he had a similar problem in one of his houses. One of his houses? My plumber has more houses than I do! I fully expect him to show up the next time in a repair van that is a combination Hummer and pimpmobile wearing thousand-dollar Max Armani coveralls.
I am, suffice it to say, not mechanically inclined. The chances of me successfully conducting a major repair to my house are about as great as a dog reading a book. I feel that, if scientists can believe in black holes, dark matter and exploding galaxies, I can believe in the self-curative powers of inanimate objects by constant incantations, prayers and, in extreme circumstances, human sacrifice. Is it too much to ask them to break down during weekday hours when repairmen cost less? To wait until after all the guests at a party have departed? To agree upon a breakdown schedule that will not drain me of my life’s savings or require a second mortgage?
If only it were so. Inanimate objects have their own laws:
||An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion.
||An object at rest breaks when you put it in motion; an object in motion breaks anyway.
||The acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force.
||The acceleration of an object’s break is directly proportional to your inability to pay for it.
||For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
||For every fix, there is at least one break.