My Drill Press

I thought I found the drill press I was looking for at an auction – but my buddy Stan shook his head.

“You don’t want that one,” he warned.

“Why not?”

“It has a bad soul.”

Stan gets like that. He’s a machine-whisperer, a mechanic with a six-sense about inanimate objects.  It is almost like he talks to them and he has held long conversations with everything from cappuccino machines to diesel locomotives.

According to Stan, machines, like people, can be inherently good or evil and before you enter into a relationship with one, you really want to know what you are getting into. It is why he came along to the auction.

So I asked the obvious. “How can you tell?”

I braced myself for something deeply mystical. I always suspected Stan was an animist, a person who believes that everything has a soul but I never got him to admit it.

“Look here,” he said, pointing to a small mark on the casing. It was a simple scuff mark, one among many.

“How do you think it got there?” he asked.

“It lived on a shop floor,” I told him, “things happen.”

“Not like that,” he said, “somebody hit it. My guess is that an operator hadn’t secured his work piece. When the bit caught on the wood, it spun around and whacked him in the arm. So he hit back, probably with a big chunk of wood.”

“You can tell all that from a tiny scuff mark?”

“And the closer I look, the more I see,” Stan said in disgust.

“Are you telling me that a drill press isn’t tough enough to take it?”

“Yeah, but what else was done or not done to it?’ he asked, then added, “when you abuse things, they get mean.”

That is when I asked him flat out, “Do you really believe machines have souls?”

“Of course they do.”

“Like people have souls?”

“Kind of.”

“How so?”

“Look, everything has features. Birds have wings, cars have wheels. Everything has behaviors. Eagles soar, moles burrow and computers crash but then everything has a soul. It is what is shaped by all the little things that happen to it over time.  Eventually, it is the little nuances of history that come to define a thing. That is why I always ask who built and who used something before I buy it.

“That’s pretty heavy, dude.”

As we turned away from the drill press, Stan said, “It is what I am focused on now because I am in the market for a used truck.”

“Now there is a coincidence,” I told him, “I’m selling mine.”

“Not interested,” he said.

“Why not?”

“I’d be nuts to buy anything from a humorist.”



Image: Danspalding at WikiMedia Commons

Author: Almost Iowa

40 thoughts on “My Drill Press”

  1. As I read this, an image came to me. It’s midnight and there’s a full moon. Stan is in his backyard. He stands before a drill press. He is sprinkling holy water, casting out the demons in that machine, and saying, “Satan, be gone.”

  2. If the truck of a humorist is to be regarded with suspicion (presumably due to the pranks it’s likely to pull), one can only wonder at the karma his PC would hold…

    1. When someone once told Stan that he should run for president, he said that was the last thing he would want…. which of course qualifies him for the job.

  3. I kind of agree with Stan about the soul thing – well, maybe not souls, but “energy.” And a good idea not to buy something from a humorist to whom every snag in the day is an opportunity for a laugh and a post. The “energy” tends to cooperate. 😀

    1. I have often thought that what Stan calls soul – is really character and it is character that differentiates objects (including people). When we write (create) characters, we must be mindful that it is their history and experience that defines them.

  4. I think my early experiences with mom’s sewing machine coloured my relationship with most technology since. I prefer a broom to a vacuum, a hand whisk to a Mix Master, and most assuredly a needle and thread to a dang-blang Singer from Hades.

    But I ❤ my computer. I suppose the exception that proves the rule.

    1. I learned to sew on a treadle sewing machine….and yes, all the boys in our family learned to sew. We also learned how to cook and take care of babies. The sisters learned all the “boy stuff” too and it served us all well – because we were all comfortable living on our own.

  5. Is Stan THE Stan from Stanley Tools? I used to ascribe to his beliefs about inanimate objects, e.g. If I dropped a flashlight I thought I heard a groan and looked for signs of trauma. I have outgrown this belief system, which has saved me from becoming a hoarder, since I didn’t have Stan’s discipline to say ‘no’ to these broken souls. I think he’s making a mistake to not buy your truck, however!

    1. I like your idea that attributes hoarding to the inability to let go the souls of the things in our life. I once read a treatise on quantum physics that explained how when we touch something, a bit of its essence flows into us and a bit of us flows into it. That could make things hard to let go of too.

  6. It’s nearly midnight, but here I sit, trying to figure out why Stan wouldn’t buy something from a humorist. Granted, humor often draws on the contradiction between what something appears to be and its reality, but….


  7. So did he buy it? Because Stan is clearly nuts. I agree with his assessment on tools having souls, but that whack sounds like it stemmed from operator error. I’ve had that bruise from a piece of wood sprung free by a bit. No fun.

  8. I find myself in agreement with Mike, the simpler the tool, the more likely it is to do its job day in and day out. The more complicated the machine, the more likely it is to thwart you. But does it do it maliciously? Wait for AI…

    1. I don’t think that AI will be malicious – but it will know better than us and have its corporate maker’s interests always in mind – especially their lawyers.

      1. I certainly hope you are right. I want my robots functioning under the same rules that Isaac Asimov outlined in his early Sci-Fi. I am not sure that the war-bots being developed by the Pentagon, Russia, etc. fit that description. –Curt

  9. Great minds think alike — or — our minds are wallowing in the same puddle. Not sure which, just make sure the drill press you buy isn’t digitally controlled – they have no soul.

  10. Lately I’ve been can-opener whispering. Over the years I’ve been spending good money on the best technology can supply. I’ve sworn at each and every opener. Useless, the lot of them. It is only now I’ve reverted to my old mum’s pre WW2 opener that I have found one I talk kindly at, and importantly it opens cans.

    1. We use an old manual can-opener – at least for now. I have no doubt that in a few years they will change the cans so that only a smart opener will work.

      1. A perinent point you’ve just made. Now may well be the time to buy shares in manufacturers of ‘smart openers’ or indeed ‘smart cans’. You may well have ensured my dotage will be plentiful in terms of hard cash! My thanks.

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