“A Few Minutes of Pleasant Beeping”
by William Blomstedt
We didn’t usually have problems with robots. Generally they seemed to stay away from the house, even though it was was far from robot proof. Whenever the guard sloth was off duty, which seemed like always, a robot could have opened the basement doors and walked or fell down into Wade’s room where he hoarded his delicious and useful electronic equipment. A robot could have easily enlisted a robot friendly helicopter pilot (Lord knows there are plenty of them these days) and hovered above our poor house while we ran around like starfish in a garage fire until it dropped through the sun window and into the Sidepocket Foyer. A robot could have even walked, or even rolled up the wheelchair ramp, and entered through the revolving door. There were no locks, of course, no one kept track of who’s coming and going from the house, and all the booby traps that Ichabel set had been accidentally tripped by creatures of flesh and blood a long time ago. Anyways, with today’s modern robots it would take much more than his old-fashioned shaving cream and hair clippings snares to stop one. Theoretically we were very vulnerable.
Not that to say we had anything against robots. In most cases they’re perfectly fine. We used our microwaves and refrigerators with a certain joy and listened to Kraftwerk almost everyday. Our good friend Turgut Boomhat was undeniably a robot and though he tried to hide it, it wasn’t too hard to see he was plugged in the wall half the time. Also we were pretty sure the milk man was a robot, or at least he dressed like one to get a better tip. Studies have shown that robots get better tips, probably due to the less interaction required. A customer does not have to remark on the weather or make other useless chatter with a robot, and those that are hungover or just lost a favorite parakeet aren’t up to these basic interactions. In those cases the robot will just deliver the pizza, the flowergram or the court summons and be on its way, tip or no. But for those feeling a bit chatty after being barricaded in the house on another week-long fluffernutter binge, then the delivery robot will allow for a few minutes of pleasant beeping. Plus if you do ask it about the weather it is able to give you an accurate three day forecast, or a less accurate ten-day forecast because everyone knows they can’t predict what the minimum temperature will be nine days in the future. Judy did once ask our robot Jehovah’s Witness about the dew point, and it not only told her the measure but provided a succinct explanation of what a dew point was, because no one who isn’t a weatherhead knows that either. Our old human Jehovah’s Witness couldn’t do that. He’d yap on for five, ten, fifteen minutes while we’d stand in the door waiting for a excuse to appear, like burning muffins, before shooing him off the step.
Other people in our neighborhood, like the Xjohnsons, complained about the robot nuisance. They had to get rid of all of their outdoor plugs or they would have a huge electricity bill from the horde of wild robots sneaking into their yard at night and charging up. Mr. Xjohnson said some mornings he would look out his window at sunrise and see a line of robots waiting for a little juice from the plug by the BBQ pit. He even found a foreign toaster-like thing in his kitchen once. It had crept inside, plugged in next to the regular toaster on the kitchen counter and had overslept on snooze mode or something. Mr. Xjohnson dumped a whole jar of maraschino cherries into that trespassing bot, a most terrible way to wake up, and batted at it with the Sunday Times until it squeezed through the hedgehog door and scurried into the tall grass. That afternoon Mr. Xjohnson put a lock on the hedgehog door but it was too late. They brought their toaster to the electrician to find out that had a litter of little toasters on the way. Apparently their own toaster was in heat at the time, for the same electrician had botched the neuter job. But with a well crafted ad in the paper, the Xjohnsons were able to give away the whole litter, including one to us, which is still toasting our bread a beautiful brown color to this very day.
There was one point when we had a worrying robot infestation, starting with Molly Bean carrying home a few packages from the the electronics store. It seemed harmless at first; using a touchscreen at the soda fountain, thumbing a keypad while in the bathtub or music buds in the ears while flossing the spider. But as it is with these machines, when they spend enough time together in a place with relaxed rules and heated circuits, they tend to multiply and run amok. Soon a rash of social networking erupted throughout the house. It was an ugly few weeks, with bazillions of wifi bombing through every skull and even the innocent fell into a soul-sucking cycle of face-spacing, mysquaring and tweetering. But this came to an end when Dr. Heartguts, who knew the signs and symptoms of general malady, grabbed the circuit by its transistors. He prescribed the entire house a healthy dose of presence, advised some extensive rehabilitation at the eye contact clinic, and then dumped a bucket of water on our router. When the sparks cleared and the smoke dispersed, everyone snapped back to the good old days of enjoying the people and objects within sight, like flossing the spider while sitting in the bathtub next to a floating carton of Neapolitan ice cream.
Except for the chocolate part of the Neapolitan. No one really enjoys that.