When I was just a little cub growing up, I never thought that I’d get old. I never believed that some day I’d be the gray-haired guy saying “There’s too many buttons on this gadget!” But it’s happened. All things come to him what aches, I guess.
I was at the office when the boss brought in the new facsimile machine. He had me set it up because he thinks of me as the youngster in the place, which gives you an idea of his age. Of course, the machine isn’t just a fax. I’m not sure you can buy such a thing anymore. It’s also a copy machine, a telephone, a scanner, and probably a surgeon. But we use it mostly as a fax machine. Whenever we go to send a fax, it starts out asking for the telephone number. Okay, that’s easy. Then is asks where on the machine the original is located. There’s the option of faxing a single-page fax from the glass top, or a multiple-page fax from the sorting bin on top of the lid. Now it knows if you’ve put anything in the bin, but it asks you the same question every time no matter what. I guess that’s in case you decided to interrupt someone’s multi-page copy to send a single-page fax. At least that’s the only reason I can think why it would ask that question when it knows whether or not you’ve got something in the bin. Okay — so far, so good. Of course, being a smart machine, if you select “bin” and there’s nothing there, the machine gets all snotty and tells you that.
Next it asks if you want to send the fax in color, or in black-and-white. I’ve always pressed the button for B/W since there’s no way to know if the receiving machine accepts color faxes. Some do, some don’t. I wish there was a way around this step, like maybe a menu item that lets you always send B/W if you want to do that. But there’s not. So it’s just one more thing to do to keep our robot overlords happy.
Well, the other day, I accidentally hit the “send it in color” button for the first time. And do you know what happened? The machine wirrrrred a bit, like it was getting ready to send a fax, but then it stopped making noise. A flashing light appeared on the instruction screen, and a message printed. The fax machine refused to send it in color. And do you know why? Was it because there was no color other than black on the fax I was sending? Was it because my ration for color pixels had been overdrawn for the month? No. It refused to send the fax in color because…(wait for it)…the machine said it had no way to know if the receiving fax machine would accept color. So it just wouldn’t send it. It didn’t give me an option to send it anyway, like, for example, if I was sending it to my house and I knew there was a color fax there. No — if it didn’t know, then it wasn’t going to be responsible for sending a color fax that might actually arrive at the other end and print out in black-and-white. No sir. It might not know just how stupid I might be, but the machine wasn’t taking any chances.
I thought and thought about this. I mean, what, exactly, is the purpose of putting that step in the instruction menu and then never allowing it to be used? Finally I decided that the fax machine was just playing mind games with me. So, I thought, if it’s that darn smart, maybe it’s amenable to a little reason — one higher life form to another. The next time I go to the office I’m taking an axe with me. I’m not planning to do anything drastic, I’m just going to lean it against the wall next to the fax machine. Then I’m going press the fax/color button again and see what happens. I may even show the axe to the fax machine, just so we’re both clear on the concept. If that doesn’t work, well, I still have the old, broken fax machine in the closet. Maybe I could place it on the desk next to the new one and start slowly hacking pieces off the old machine a little at a time. I mean, it’s broken anyway. This way maybe it’ll still be good for something.
We’ll see who’s the wise guy then…