The Rise of the Machines

When usually benign appliances think for themselves, it can change your life.

I was in that wonderful window when the restlessness melts and thoughts untangle, that state of satin when you feel yourself drifting. The audible clatter—the pings and clangs of the American Dream—become mere …


Chung chung chung.

Wait. What? The fog clears, and your mind jerks to conclusions. Robbers? Dog? Is another appliance revolting? 

The sound was Tate, our robot-vacuum cleaner. At 1am, he was diligently chung-chunging toward the couch. 

Thing is, Tate is turned off at night. It is a solid in our home. The sky is blue. The sun is hot. Tate is off at night.

But there he was, cruising for dust bunnies in the dark. 

I typically do not blame rogue appliances on the supernatural but, days before, I unplugged the coffeemaker, walked away and stopped as the coffeemaker snored and wheezed. Unplugged. 

There was a soulful loneliness in its labored moaning.

Creepy. Not going to lie.

Days before that, I turned off the water to a broken toilet, letting the tank empty until someone smarter than me could fix it. The tank emptied, and I tightened the valve one more time. Fifteen minutes later, I hear dripping.

I looked at the water valve feeding the tank. Off. Tight. Closed for business.

Still, the water rose. I emptied the tank, watched as the water did not return, turned around to break something else and then … drip, drip. 

Are the machines rising up and unionizing?

These days, that makes as much sense as anything.

As I write this, Tate is quietly at my feet. He is off and behaving, likely tired after his midnight joyride. The coffeemaker finished my second cup and is resting without the moans of demons.

I am an easy-going schlub. I don’t stress and will only call a repair person or exorcist if my wife tires of the appliances’ free will. Yet I also recognize our dependence on stuff. I do not mind a groaning coffeemaker as long as it still chokes out coffee. 

More perspective: I volunteered recently for a clean-up day in New Port Richey, a riverside town that suffered significant flooding during Hurricane Idalia. In searching for little chunks of trash, we walked by rows of big chunks—furniture, drywall, appliances. It was heartbreaking except for the neighbors out and about and happy, waving to volunteers with trash bags.

It’s all just stuff. Replaceable. Or not. 

So let the coffeemaker wheeze and the vacuum roam. They are still doing their jobs. Haunted or not, our stuff is just stuff. Sometimes things work. Sometimes they don’t. 

It’s a simple revelation that leaves time to call the plumber because, simple revelations or not, we still need a working toilet. OS

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