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Machines As Pals

By LC Van Savage

I’ve always wished I could work the phrase “Deux ex Machina” into a column so I’d sound all scholarly, but I can’t manage it. We all know it means “A god from a machine” and I think was used a lot during Greek and Roman dramas way back in--- oh a really long time ago. It was when an actor god was suddenly lowered by a crane or rope or something onto the stage so he could determine the final outcome of the play apparently no one else, play-wise, could figure out to do. Real last minute cavalry stuff. So were the phrase put into the vernacular, it would mean, “some stranger walks into a thorny situation that’s confusing everyone, and quickly unthorns it.”

No, today’s article is not about deuxing ex machining, but about how we humanize machinery. All our personal machinery. For example, I recently found myself explaining to Mongo the personality traits of our new dishwasher and while I didn’t assign a sex or name to the machine, I did explain carefully about its intricacies and needs and admonished him to be sensitive to these traits so we could get optimum work and spotless glasses from it.

It’s what we do, isn’t it? When you go to a car shop to have your car repaired, do you hear yourself talking about the vehicle as if it had feelings? I do. I’ll say, “The old girl just doesn’t seem to like regular gasoline. Makes a lot of protest noises when I use it, so I don’t force the issue and just give ‘er premium. She must like it because it seems to keep her guts running smoothly,” and I gently stroke her hood.

We baby our machines, figuring out what they like best and then of all things, giving it to them, forgetting that they’re supposed to be working for us. Aren’t they?

Sure they are, but come on, you know you talk to and with your machines. We all do. We cajole and beg, tantrum at, hit and kick them. Who of us hasn’t begged our cars to start in mid winter in an abandoned parking lot during a blizzard? And when they have started obediently, which of us hasn’t exhaled and thanked her/it or even patted the dashboard in gratitude?

And don’t we all shout at our telephones when the party to whom we’re speaking hangs up on us? In the movies, actors playing the role of someone enraged at a person at the other end of the line always hammer their phones repeatedly and violently until they shatter to splinters, all the while screaming at the instrument for causing all the nastiness.

Ever begged whatever vehicle you’re in to please not explode? Sink? Roll over? Fly over a cliff? Catch fire? To stop spinning? To please stop honking?

Have you ever thrown a bowl or an electric fork through the closed kitchen window demanding that it “just stay out there!” because your Beef Wellie didn’t turn out as you’d hoped? Moi aussi.

And speaking of food, we also humanize that, too. “I like Chili but it doesn’t like me.” Or, “Come on now, be good. Don’t collapse on me now, come on, come on!!” shouted through the oven door at the soufflé.

Which of us hasn’t showered our alarm clocks with a litany of early morning blue words when it’s just performed the job for which it was purchased?

Lawn mowers and snow blowers take an inordinate amount of abuse when they break down and are forced to stand silently while their owners heap verbal invective all over them, then punishing them further with several smart whacks with something hard, like a brick.

Well, someone or something’s got to be the whipping boy and machines, deux or not, are non-judgmental, patient things that will take the verbal disparagement, love us anyway, and keep on ticking.

LC's book "To Norma Jeane with Love Jimmy"
written with Marilyn Monroe's first husband,
is at local bookstores.
Email her at


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