Most of us guys attribute human traits to the contraptions we have to deal with, especially the troublesome ones. “That blasted water heater has it in for me,” a frustrated homeowner will moan, as if the inanimate arrangement of wires and plumbing actually has a personal grudge against him. Well, maybe it does.
I’m beginning to believe there’s something to it after a recent weird experience which made me rethink my recollections of past struggles with uncooperative appliances and assorted machinery. My toaster got testy one recent morning. I’d push down that little knob and it would jump up immediately. Eight or nine tries and a violent shaking of the little beast brought no results. I won’t repeat my foul language here. That’s just between me and the toaster, but I began to speak to it in a low, threatening tone. “You’ve heard that noisy garbage truck outside,” I said. “That loud screeching you sometimes hear is the last cry of a naughty toaster being crushed before it’s taken to a foundry and melted down in a fiery furnace. I’ve heard all useless toasters end up as minor parts in smelly dumpsters.” Just then I heard a loud click, pushed the knob down and I was back in the breakfast toast business.
I’d only been venting and didn’t expect a response. When I think back now about similar situations with similar results, I get an odd feeling. I might have become an appliance whisperer!
Eating dinner one night long ago, after a hard days work, my wife remarked, “Dear, before you turn in, please fix the refrigerator.”
“Fix the refrigerator? How does one fix a refrigerator?” I asked. She replied it had stopped humming and cooling several hours previously. “So there must be a reset button someplace or other,” she said and left to do the dishes.
So there I was, peering into the dark bowels of the fridge. a screwdriver in one hand and a flashlight in the other, searching for the mythical button and making random vile threats sotto voce so the kids wouldn’t hear. “You’ve outlived your usefulness, you traitorous villain.” I hissed. “My family’s food supply is going bad in your belly now. I won’t forgive you for this, you disloyal brute. Your recycling begins tomorrow.” I gave it an angry poke with the screwdriver, saw a spark and heard a promising rumble.
“It was just a hung-up solenoid I explained offhandedly to my wife later, hoping she didn’t know what a solenoid was either.
Then there was the experience with the sulky Studebaker, our second car, the unreliable one. Traffic was bumper to bumper on Route 280 one morning. We were inching down a steep hill in West Orange and I was talking through clenched teeth to Stoody. “Of all the hundreds of drivers in this creeping downhill jam, I’ll bet I’m the only one trapped inside a traitorous machine that has suddenly decided to shut down. If you’re not mobile by the time we get to the bottom of this hill, I’m having you towed directly to Tony’s Junkyard. On one of my recent visits for parts for unreliable Studebakers , Tony told me he can tell, depending on where he sends the hulk of an untrustworthy car, what its ultimate fate will be. I’ll have him guarantee you’ll end up as a Port-a-John.” Sulky Stoody suddenly shuddered, kicked in and started purring. Yes, purring.
I realize now I’ve had similar satisfying encounters with a misbehaving mower, a petulant PC and a wishy-washy washing machine. With proper professional handling I think I could be the hardware version of Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer and have a similar TV show. But with the vocabulary needed with my methods, a great deal of bleeping will be necessary.

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