Wednesday, January 28, 2004


Lately, our refrigerator seems to be acquiring a domineering personality. I know that in using the "p" word in regard to a mere machine I am crossing a tacit boundary into no-no territory, a place no one ever goes except in very remote theory bandied about in academic chambers or in radical sci-fi, but even though it's just an inkling I'm having, it's pretty damn big for an inkling, and it inkles with a disturbing resonance.

It's only the refrigerator so far, but can the stereo, the washing machine, the PC, the van, be far behind? (These devices are, after all, by their very nature, in this together...) Perhaps this change in personality is temporary, and due merely to power fluctuations; though perhaps, more sinisterly, it is due to corporate planning, or even to unknown evolutionary powers of programmed silicon.

Who can predict the future of open-ended "progress," any more than we can know the end result of a seeded tomato that glows in the dark and tastes like tobacco, or a reproductive insect that despises onions and sings Mozart? Where is the end in all this? And is that end a reward or a punishment? No one knows of course, since we haven't been here before, which is one of the drawbacks of one-track 4-dimensional living. Nevertheless, the end result has been anticipated in all the myths, if one cares to look with other than educated eyes.

But to get back to the refrigerator: when left open, it used to say, briefly and politely (I'm anthropomorphizing some electronic beeps here, refrigerator voices are still fairly primitive) "Excuse me, but..." or "I say, master..." or "Would you mind perhaps saving yourself some electricity by..." but recently, due to some kind of unilateral siliconic mutation, the fridge has begun sounding more like Il Duce on a bad day: "Hey, bonehead!" or "Yeah, I mean you! GET-OVER-HERE-NOW and shut my damn door!!" or "Drop what you're doing and shut this before I shut you!!" We're not exactly bowing yet, but circuits are tireless things, whereas we are but creatures of flesh and blood that must earn incomes and invade oil-rich countries to keep our essential machines running.

There have been indications that it could be some kind of vast corporate conditioning of the consumer in preparation for ever more egregious and domineering product lines that actually force their purchase, leading to the eventual corporate-controlled electromechanical world takeover, whose imminence we all sense in many current office-holders, and each time we note that our own machines themselves are surpassing us in the IQ department, always staying just a bit beyond reach of our programming ability, flashing their taunting lights in our faces night and day, running up our power bills behind our backs and beyond our control then phasing out, necessitating our purchase of even more advanced models that make us feel even more inferior to them, until if we unplug them for any length of time they make us start over from scratch when at last we are forced to plug them in again.

And like any incipient dictator, the fridge is deaf to the admonitions of a mere user like myself, who must sleep and eat, can be caught off guard and has only the instruction manual provided. I suppose that the day I come home to a crowd of appliances madly cheering below the balcony whence the refrigerator is declaiming a new world order is the day I should start to worry. Or maybe I should start to worry now.