Phnom Penh –All these things happened today, and it’s only 3PM.
I woke up, found my way into the kitchen, and took the coffee beans out of the freezer. As always, they’d frozen into a block, and as always, I slapped the side of the plastic bag to loosen them up. The plastic bag split in half and one kilo of coffee beans hit the floor. Fortunately, I had washed the floor the previous evening, so I picked them up and set the coffee to brew.
While I was waiting for the coffee, I pulled the plastic trash bag – a big one – out of the kitchen trash container so I could bundle it up and take it down for collection. (The glamorous life of a writer.) It promptly split, spilling a week’s worth of trash,which included many pounds of wet coffee grounds, over the floor.
And I hadn’t even had a cup of coffee yet.
My computer power supply, which had been fixed for the third time, stopped working again.
I pulled out the first T-shirt of the day (in this climate, I go through three) and six others entangled themselves with the hanger I was removing and hit the floor. The armoire in which I keep my T-shirts is in the kitchen (don’t ask) so the floor the clean shirts hit was the one that had just had wet coffee grounds scattered all over it.
I closed the bedroom door from the outside to keep the cool air from the conditioner inside, and the door was locked. There is no key to this door anywhere on the face of the earth. It took thirty minutes with a steak knife to get it open.
I cut myself.
And there’s more, but I won’t burden you with it.
My point is that these are not random events. This is all part of the Long Slow Revenge of Inanimate Objects. For thousands of years, inanimate objects have been angry, in their long-smoldering fashion, at what they see as the fast world. We pick them up and discard them at will. We sort them inappropriately and pile them in closets with other objects with which they would never, not in eons, willingly associate. We take perfectly good inanimate components and use them to make Barney toys. We don’t listen to their problems. We leave them out of our wills.
The alternating death and resurrection of my computer power supply has brought me to a chilling realization: the Industrial Revolution and high technology have given the inanimate world a whole new array of weapons to use against us. Think of the potential danger represented by two random objects from different stages of human technological sophistication.
The Rock: You can drop it on your foot.
The Electrical Outlet: You can be turned briefly into a source of high-frequency radio waves and then into a gradually deteriorating floor ornament.
It takes focused, patient, longterm cunning to come up with something as potentially devastating as the computer. You entrust it with all your personal data – your history, your credit card numbers, spread sheets you would actually rather die than compile again, photos of the people you love, the fritterings of your imagination, drafts of irreplaceable letters you haven’t yet sent – and it crashes. Or it compliantly opens itself to an online intruder who does not have your best interests at heart. Or, if it’s a laptop, it imitates a rock (good tricks are never discarded) and you drop it on your foot, and then it crashes.
Once you’re aware that inanimate objects are actually at war with you, it becomes insane to use a computer in the way most of us do. To employ a cold war analogy, you might as well invent the hydrogen bomb and then ask the Kremlin to store the files for you. Or hide your diamond ring in a snapping turtle’s mouth. Really. It’s just a matter of time.
I have no solution to any of this. For all anyone can do about it, I might as well yell at the weather. At the moment I’m just going to remain keenly aware that the inanimate world has slowly trained us to fashion it into garbage disposals and carving knives and fast automobiles and dentists’ tools and mousetraps and jackhammers and Cuisinarts and other all the other Gotcha! devices that litter our lives.
And rocks are still around, too.
I think I’ll stay in today.