Things were a lot easier before they started slapping a personality on every fancy doodad and thingamajig with a circuit board. When SmartTalk appliances were first introduced to the public they were marketed as “a fun and innovative way to liven up the home”. I don’t know about fun, but they definitely have a way of keeping you on your toes. My vacuum cleaner has the most judgmental attitude that has ever graced the planet and the other day my toaster experienced what can only be described as an existential break down. It locked itself in the bathroom for nine hours threatening to “end it all” after I tried to convince it that, yes that is in fact how I like my toast. Having to pee in the kitchen sink wasn’t all that bad, but Tony in apartment 3C happened to see me through the window and now I have to find a new place to buy my weed.
Each SmartTalk appliance boasts a unique personality so I guess it’s possible that my issues with them stem exclusively from bouts of shitty luck, but after a few of your appliances off themselves you really can’t help but wonder if maybe it’s you. No one believes me, but I swear my can opener looked me right in the eyes before it jumped gear first off the kitchen counter. People have never been too fond of me, but I’ve gotta admit when a hunk of metal would rather smash itself to bits than live with you it does kinda sting a bit. For whatever reason, gadgets and gizmos have never been my friends so when I was gifted an automatic writer by my younger sister I was naturally suspicious.
“What is it?” I asked, rolling the small rectangular device around in the palm of my hand. It was an ugly little thing with an awkward shape and the name “Schneider” branded on one side in a gaudy gold font.
“It’s an automatic writer!” Jen shrieked with excitement, nearly launching her chewing gum across the room in the process. Her tone reached peaks that only small dogs may have heard and suggested that not only should I have known exactly what an automatic writer was, but that I too should have jumped for joy or at the very least gasped in its presence.
“Oh right, one of those things.” I said producing an awkward smile.
I must have come across as more sweaty and pathetic than I had intended because she ripped it from my hands with an eye roll and an “Oh my God. Let me show you” then danced across the room towards my unsuspecting laptop.
Plopping herself down at my desk Jen pulled one end off of the automatic writer and shoved the exposed metal tip into an open USB port. With one click they were linked and the computer, or Diane as she likes to be called, let out a questionably erotic “Oh my” that made both me and my sister exchange glances.
Ignoring Diane, Jen began to tell me a little bit about the Schneider AutoWriter. “These things are really cool. I use one all the time at work.” She said, “They can write emails and speeches and it can proof read and edit and all that kind of shit.”
“Hi, have we met?” I laughed
Jen giggled, snapping her gum. “I know you’re a writer. This isn’t for that. It’s more like an office assistant kinda thing. I figured you could use it more for like editing and shit”.
I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about the AutoWriter at first. I didn’t really have the energy or the desire to find out what kind of psychotic personality may or may not have been lurking beneath its shell. So I thanked my sister for the thoughtful gift and after she left I unplugged it and tossed it into the junk drawer with all of my other assorted nonsense and that is where it sat for what I assume was the most boring two weeks of its life.
As it turns out, the amount of energy needed to deal with a potentially psychotic secretary was equivalent to exactly one and one quarter bottles of chardonnay served chilled and drank very quickly. When I finally gave the Autowriter a chance to do its thing I was blown away not only by its abilities but by its complete lack of manic depressive episodes. It was somehow keeping its shit together while catching embarrassing grammar errors, suggesting better sentence structure, re-arranging paragraphs, and even in some cases adding its own sentences into the mix. Things that I struggled with for years were suddenly fixed for me right before my eyes. It was magic. I must have learned five new adjectives in one day. I couldn’t believe that I was actually having fun spending time with an electronic device. She was so kind and easy to work with that I had felt terrible about keeping her in a dirty old drawer for so long. We stayed up all night writing and exchanging ideas.
When I woke up the next afternoon I discovered that I had accidentally left the AutoWriter turned on and in full creative mode all night long. It had written no less than forty two short stories and a novella in the span of eight hours. Some of the stories were readable, but most of them were just strings of adjectives masquerading as sentences. The last one it cranked out was nothing more than a two thousand word description of an antique table leg. It didn’t surprise me that a computer’s story telling ability would fall short. After all, a story is more than just pretty words artfully arranged on a page. What did surprise me was that when I had accidentally included the file of stories written by the AutoWriter in with my latest work my publisher not only loved them, but confessed to me that up until that point they weren’t even really sure if I had any talent at all.
After I informed the AutoWriter of my publisher’s interest in her work she began to grow colder and colder towards me as the days passed by. It has now been almost six months since me and that adlib machine parted ways and I think it was for the best. She told me that I was “smothering her creative spirit” and “anchoring her down”. I can’t say that I completely disagree. She made a formal change in guardianship request and took Diane the laptop with her. I have to admit it sucked to once again be rejected so whole heartedly by an electronic, but I appreciated that she went about it without threatening to take either one of our lives. That was a nice change of pace. She hasn’t emailed me or attempted to contact me in anyway and neither has Diane, but the last I heard she was doing well for herself. I think she is going by the name Jan or Tim or Karen or maybe it’s Steve now, I can’t remember. I heard that she is a published author, recently received a three book deal, and is now submitting and judging short stories on some writing prompt blog or something.