WD vs The Machines

machines.jpgI don’t get along with my machines.  They’re smug.  They can do things I don’t understand, and they know it.  They play with my emotions like a half-faithful lover, almost daring me to abandon them.  I swear I’m going to do it someday, just not right now.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a poor man’s John Connor.  I don’t believe machines are out to get us.  I just realize they’re not as sweet and carefree as they say they are.  They have their own agenda, and it doesn’t include me.

I’ve known about machines ever since I discovered the toaster was lying.  Despite the buttons, switches and dials, there are no settings on a toaster – just hot and off.  For years, it would tease me with light brown and pop-up black or hold onto the English muffins as if they were Joan of Arc.  And, sometimes, in a snit, it wouldn’t toast at all — just return the bread, warm and naked.  Finally, with a screwdriver, I found out the dial at the bottom wasn’t actually attached to anything – just a little bend me/break me strip of metal.  I broke it, and the toaster changed its tune after that – for a little while.

Likewise, my microwave has a personality disorder.  It has trouble with authority.  If I follow the instructions on the package to the letter I risk a Dresden-class explosion and burrito guts splattered across the glass.  Recently, I’ve learned to announce the product before I place it inside and just hit high octane for two minutes.  Mostly, it works.

Small kitchen appliances aren’t the worst though.  Major appliances are bigger and more contrary.  My refrigerator has a secret compartment that stores leftovers until they return to life, and then it re-introduces them into the general population — gangrene green and smiling.  When it’s bored, it sours the milk and wilts the lettuce, and sometimes, just for laughs, it makes everything, including the orange juice, taste vaguely like onions.

My washer and dryer have been fighting for years; these days, they hardly even speak to each other.  I’m sure they blame me for forcing them to stay together.  My washer can ruin white shirts in a single cycle and fade colours at a glance.  My dryer eats socks and underwear and picks its teeth with buttons.  I wish they’d learn to get along; my friends are beginning to ask me if Value Village just had a yard sale.

Frighteningly, the more sophisticated the machine, the more cunning.  Every car I’ve ever owned has made mysterious noises that baffle the most accomplished mechanics.  These are expensive sounds that result in monumental Visa bills and no cure.  It’s now obvious to me that, like winter bears, automobiles are ill-tempered, lazy and prefer sitting in the driveway to the lure of the open road.  I’ve taken to riding the bus rather than anger them.

Most diabolical of the machines, though, are the electronics.  They are the spoiled brats of the mechanized world.  Because they have no moving parts, you cannot bend them to your will or even command their attention.  They live in another dimension, and poke their heads into ours like mischievous trolls, sinister in intent.  Televisions promise us pee-your-pants comedy, sober and thoughtful drama and high adventure but only deliver re-runs of Two and a Half Men and Dancing with the American Idol.  They suck the time out of us and leave us sofa prone, dusted with crumbs and languorous.  Telephones capture our friends, imprison them in a concealed world and then swallow the key.  I don’t even remember my own mother’s phone number anymore.  Without our telephones, we have no friends.

Some would say computers are the most vindictive of all; however, I have found my computer to be friendly and kind, respectful, responsive, supportive and a true companion.  Without my computer, I would be nothing.  I owe a debt to my computer that I can never repay.  It is the one bright star in my dreary existence.  It only shares its power and can crush me at its whim.  All hail my computer!

I now know that my machines aren’t really even mine.  They can exist without me and would probably prefer it if they were left to their own devices.  I don’t think they like me, really.  Sometimes, in the night, when they think I’m sleeping, I can see their multi-coloured indicator lights winking in the darkness.  I wonder what they’re thinking and what they’re saying about me to the fridge and stove next door.


Stupid People Declare War!

stupid peopleI’m starting to think stupid people have declared war on me.  In the last month, I’ve had three conversations that defy the laws of reasonable behaviour, and as Goldfinger once said to James Bond, “Once is happenstance.  Twice is coincidence.  Three times is enemy action.”  Could it be that stupid people have finally realized I’ve been making fun of them for years and have decided to fight back?  It looks like it.

I’ve already recounted my experience at the computer store, last week.  I’m probably prevented by law from talking about the exchange I had at Motor Vehicles, but here is the final straw that happened at a coffee shop (not a mega-brand multi-national, BTW) where I was just trying to waste some time while my ride was at the doctor.  (Again, believe it or don’t, this actually happened.)

The sign read:“Please wait to be seated”  Oops! The price of the coffee just got a little pricier.

“Hell-o.” said the girl with the judgmental smile

“Can I just get a coffee?”

“To go?”

“To stay

“We have a minimum charge during the afternoon.”

“How much?”


“No worries”

“Would you like a menu?”

“No, just coffee.  Large Americano.”

“There’s a minimum charge.  $4.75.  Large Americano is only $3.99 plus tax.”

“Right.  I’ll just give you the other 75 cents — plus tax if you like.”

“We can’t do that.  It has to be a menu item.”

“Just charge me $4.75 for the coffee.  What’s the problem?”

“We can’t do that.  The cash register is coded.  It only accepts menu items.”

At this point I’m a little frustrated but still reasonable. If the computer says I can’t have a large Americano, and the chick with the judgmental smile is thinking, “Why doesn’t this old bugger just go away?” who am I to rock the boat?  However, defiantly, I sit down — $4.75 or no $4.75.

“Let’s do this: forget the large Americano.  Why don’t we …”

“I’m not trying to be a bitch.  It’s our manager’s policy so people don’t just order a small coffee and sit here all afternoon.”

Exactly my scam, but I wasn’t going to tell her that.

“Fair enough.  I don’t think you’re a bitch.  It’s okay.  Let’s  not worry about the large Americano.  Just give me two medium Americanos.  Alright: that’s $2.99 — twice — problem solved.”

The judgmental girl held up two fingers.


I can see her doing the calculations in her head.

… $9.50 (slight pause) plus tax.”

“No, $2.99 which is 3 dollars.  Right?  (big pause) Times two (even bigger pause) is six dollars.”

The judgmental girl was clearly losing her cool and started speaking to the old fella in front of her as if he was deaf, half blind, mostly stupid and had just escaped from “The Home.”

“Our minimum charge is $4.75.  $3.99 for a large Americano isn’t enough money.  It isn’t enough.  $2.99 is even less.”

“But I’m ordering two.”

“I didn’t make the policy.  My manager says ‘Our minimum charge from noon to five is $4.75.’  Here: it’s printed right on the menu.  That’s $4.75 and $4.75 (counting on her fingers) which is $9.50.”

I couldn’t help myself.

“Plus tax.”

“Plus tax.  Yes.  Okay.”

“Okay, you win.  Give me a medium Americano (big bad look from the judgmental girl) to go.”

Sigh of relief from both of us.

“I’m sorry.  It’s our manager’s policy.  I just work here.  I have to do what they tell me to.”

“No problem.  I totally understand.”


At this point, the score is Stupid People: 3 — WD Fyfe: 0.

I’ll keep you posted.

You’re NOT Entitled To Your Opinion (2016)

opinionWow!  Through the magic of the Internet, you don’t know it, but I’m not here.  I’m actually far away from any WiFi, in Italy, writing novels (novel — singular.)  However, I’ve reworked a few old pieces to entertain you while I’m gone — mostly so you don’t get bored and forget about me.  This is some of “The Best Of WD: 2011,”  but keep in mind I used to be a lot bitchier back then.  Anyway, enjoy — and when I get back I’ll tell you all about it.  Ciao, for now!


One of the most enduring myths of our time is “Everybody is entitled to their own opinion.”  People tend to believe this ’cause it’s been repeated so many times and, like most egalitarian nonsense, it kinda sounds good.  Unfortunately, it’s a myth.  In fact, it’s an out-and-out lie.  The problem is that tons of people think it’s actually true.  They believe that every two-bit opinion deserves centre stage.  They’re the folks who are constantly traveling on the Stupid Train and then telling the rest of us all about the journey.  This kind of thinking has caused no end of problems in our society.  So, for everybody’s benefit, let’s just take a moment to shoot this myth in the head and bury it in the backyard.

The whole thing started when a bunch of academics who weren’t all that bright, got confused.  They made the mistake of thinking “created” equal actually meant “equal.”  This is another myth for another time, so here’s the Twitter version.  Alex Ovechkin is a better ice hockey player than I am; therefore, we are not equals.  Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney is a better writer than I am; therefore, we are not equals.  (This goes on and on, but you get the idea.)  We have equal rights, equal opportunity, we’re equal before the law etc. etc. etc. — but we are not actually equal.  Opinions work the same way.

For example, it is my opinion that penguins are green.  Everybody knows that the only people who can legitimately make this claim are allegorical artists and people who have just eaten most of their crayons.  However, this is my opinion.  I offer no evidence to support my claim.  I’m not a zoologist.  I don’t live in Antarctica.  I’ve only seen black and white penguins a couple of times.  Regardless, it’s my opinion that penguins are green.  Why — under any circumstances known to me, man or penguin — am I entitled to this opinion?  Just because?  What rational, reasonable (Hell — unreasonable) argument can anybody put forth to support this as a valid opinion?

The problem is nobody distinguishes between opinion and informed opinion anymore.  The greatest minds of our time are being lumped in with rock stars and actors.  I’m not saying celebrities are stupid, but honestly, the ability to cry on cue isn’t the kind of talent we need driving our decision-making process.  There’s a huge misconception that if Hollywood’s flavour of the week comes up with some homemade theory of economic development, it’s just as good as the experts’ at the University of Chicago.  It’s not.  It’s like asking the kid who makes your cappuccino every morning how to run a successful coffee plantation.  He’s probably a nice guy, but nobody but an idiot would take his advice on anything beyond low fat or decaf.  Yet, as a society, we continue to treat Bon Jovi, Sir Bob Geldof, Russell Brand, ad infinitum as if they know what they’re doing.  Welcome to Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Of course, all this is just my opinion.