Applied Appliance Sciences

Humor only works if it is based on truth. Orwell’s terrifying vision of the future is nothing compared to what the techno-geeks have in store for us.


The doorbell rings. You answer. It is the re- frigerator repairman, something you know right away because his name appears in big letters on the side of his Lexus. “I’m here to fix your refrigerator,” he says.

You scratch your head. “But my refrigerator isn’t broken.”

He smiles, picking at one fingernail. “Not yet it isn’t.”

This terrifying Orwellian nightmare is the latest dystopian fantasy to be presented in a television commercial under the guise of “progress.” It seems that someone plans to manufacture a re- frigerator which senses when it is about to break down, and then calls the repairman ALL BY ITSELF.

What the ads don’t show you is what comes next, which is this:

The doorbell rings again the next day. Again, it is the refrigerator repairman, “She called in again last night,” he says. “Must be one of them TX- 170 couplers. I’ll get her fixed in a jiffy. By the way, here’s the bill for yesterday’s service.” He bends over to remove a plastic grid stamped “Do NOT Remove,” and you feel a sudden sympathy for the fruits of his loom.

Two days later the doorbell rings AGAIN. “Howdy,” Steve says. By now you are on a first- name basis. He helps himself to a ham and cheese sandwich from the refrigerator and stands there looking at it, chewing thoughtfully. “It tastes cold,” he says. “Could be the thermal disgronifier.”

You are not the sort of person to distrust people, but eventually you start to wonder if there even IS anything wrong with the refrigerator. Steve is now wearing a collection of diamond rings that would make Liberace gulp in disbelief.

Then, very early in the morning as you lay awake wondering how you’re going to pay for your new second mortgage, the truth hits you.

You scramble for the phone and dial the 24- hour 800 number of the refrigerator manufac- turer. While you wait, you pour a cup of coffee from your new Toasty-Roasty electric pot, which is rapidly blinking its little red eyes at you as though it wants you to get off the phone. You start to understand. All this is just the tip of the ice-maker. Your web-compliant Freezy-Brrrr fridge with dual phone and battery back-up emergency Y3K features is nothing more than a blank check. And how about your television? Your air-conditioner? Your electric shaver? These are all wired to your phone lines, too.

You begin to panic. What will happen, you wonder, when they apply this technology to CARS? It’s bad enough that your car talks to you every time the door stands ajar (“CAR payment is DUE! CAR payment is DUE!”). Soon, it will be using your cell phone to make lengthy phone calls to the Volkswagon Lube and Repair Ap- pointment Center. Which is in Berlin. “Ich habe ein schplorkoompf in meine zoompooper.”

Or, suppose the fridge and the car are in this thing together, plotting, scheming, talking back and forth, kitchen to garage, cell phone to internet to remote. “Who needs What’s-His-Name,” the car whispers darkly, headlights glimmering in a pale shaft of moonlight. “Yes,” the fridge whispers back, “What’s He got that we don’t? I mean besides opposable thumbs.”

Finally, at precisely 9am the next morning, Freezy-Brrrr’s answering system reluctantly con- nects you with a real human being. “I know what it is!” you blurt out, “I know what’s wrong with my refrigerator!”

“Huh?” the Freezy-Brrrr customer service associate says.

“It’s the part that determines when anything is broken. THAT part is broken.”

“Hey, wait a minute,” the person says, “YOU’RE not an appliance. I’ll have to put you on hold.”

© Daniel Schwabauer. All rights reserved.
May not be copied or used in part or in whole without express written permission from the author.
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