Mechanical Animals


This may seem to be such an obvious point that it’s hardly worth exploring, but the next time a homeowner needs something that they can’t fix on their own, I would suggest that they hire an expert. Recent experience has taught me that it’s cheaper, less time-consuming, and less frustrating to just call in an expert that does this every day, knows what they’re doing, and will guarantee their work, than it is to bring in friends or associates to fix major projects in the home. Any homeowner that is currently struggling with whether or not to bring in their cousin’s cousin to fix something big in their home, take it from me that you’ll save a lot of money, frustration, and time by just calling in that “over-priced” and somewhat condescending expert.

Fix it guyA mechanical animal will never tell a homeowner this. Mechanical animals will inform the homeowner that they should fix it themselves, and they’ll make that homeowner feel foolish for not being male enough, or industrious enough, to fix it themselves. If the homeowner maintains a realistic limitation of their abilities in this discussion, the mechanical animal will add words that may forever taint the relationship that exists between the two of them:

“Hell, I can fix it for you.”

If the homeowner wants to further endear themselves to the mechanical animal, my advice is to let the mechanical animal get their jones off in the field of mechanics. Let them go into the intricate detail of their three-to-five-to-seven-to-nine point plans and smile, and nod, and say “Holy Crackers!” and “Man, you sure know what you’re talking about!” Do this, and dazzle them with your lack of knowledge, and keep your head in a non-confrontational and subservient position, and you’ll have a friend for life. Do not, however, take this guy home with you.

He may seduce the desperate homeowner with conversation points that concern the love and care he will show the home’s nuts and bolts, but once the lubrication is applied the mechanical animal will start wrecking everything the desperate homeowner holds dear. Then, when they’re “done”, they won’t mind leaving a fella incomplete, because his satisfaction wasn’t the reason the mechanical animal injected their ideas into the conversation in the first place. The plan never involved them coming into the house, screwing your lightbulb, or saving you one thin dime. The conversation was the purpose of the conversation. They’re mechanical animals.

In the midst of the conversation, mechanical animals are experts in the field of saving money, time, and frustration by following a simple three-to-five-to-seven-to-nine point plan, and these plans are often right on the mark. Mechanical animals often know the schematics of a blue print. These schematics have been programmed into their heads in a manner Rachmaninoff can be programmed into a self-playing piano. Like any song, a problem can be fixed in programmed steps, but the difference lies in the variables. Mechanical animals are often great at duplicating their pre-programmed knowledge on a lawn with a beer in their hand, but they often fall short when variables arise. They’re mechanical animals.

Mechanical animals are also great at informing a group of fellas on a lawn, with a beer in hand, that the corporate guys they’re planning on hiring are not as qualified as they have been led to believe, because the mechanical animal had a friend of a friend of a friend that hired them once, fourteen years ago, and that man wasn’t satisfied with the work they did. Who are you to hire then, is a question that braver homeowners on a lawn, with a beer in hand, might ask.

“You don’t hire anyone silly,” the mechanical animal says. “You fix it yourself.”

This all makes for excellent “males on the lawn, with a beer in your hand” conversation, but it’s been my experience that the best, least expensive course of action for a desperate homeowner to follow, at this point right here, is to smile, finish your beer, walk into the house, and involve yourself in the conversation the females are having about the finest upholstery known to man. Do not ask for another beer, or listen to further “guys on the lawn, with a beer in the hand” conversations regarding the mechanical animal’s expertise with a twinkle in your eye, because you’ve finally found that someone that knows what they’re talking about at long last, or you will be left with a half assed fix and an inoperable dullness in your eye that will last you the rest of your adult life.

We all know at least one mechanical animal. They’re our wife’s brother-in-law, our neighbor, the guy that stops to chat with us at the local Home Depot, our uncle, and just about every male that we know beyond the smiling nod. They’re mechanical animals –often named Morty– that have encountered just about every obstacle in life, and they can diagnose any problem a person is having in T-Minus two minutes, but if that person makes the mistake of turning a dime on them, they’ll be screaming: “Houston, we have a problem!” in T-Minus two months.

Morty type, mechanical animals often have an archetype male affixed to their memory that knew how to fix things, because he needed to know, and he didn’t have the money necessary to hire a fix-it guy. If this archetype male didn’t learn how to fix the plumbing in his house, in other words, it didn’t get fixed. A Morty type will have one great story regarding this archetype male going to a hardware store, picking up a pamphlet, and wiring his home for electricity based on those instructions alone. The audience of this narrative may revere the industrious, rugged individual characteristics of Morty’s archetype male, but Morty will temper their awe with a summation along the lines of:

“It’s not all that hard,” these Morty types will tell your open mouthed awe, “All you have to do is …”

Throughout the course of a Morty’s lengthy testimonial, we learn that Morty’s archetype male was industrious, self-serving, and patient with the trial and error variables involved in fixing things, and undaunted by matters that leave the rest of us breathless, but, again, that archetype’s knowledge was borne out of necessity.

If the reader’s attention has wavered to some degree while reading this warning, this is the point where they will want to regain focus. For, it is this point where a Morty type may begin to fuse the abilities of his archetype male with his own. He may say something like:

“The man taught me everything I know.” 

There will be some romantic attachments that a listener makes between Morty and his archetype male that grabs the attention of the listener. The listener may consider it a beautiful thing that Morty reveres his father so. The listener may recount some of his own feelings for his father, or the listener might wish they had revered their father in the manner Morty details. It may touch the listener to hear to this man detail this reverence, but the listener will need to remind themselves at a crucial point in the conversation that Morty is not his father.

Morty’s generation, our generation, loves the convenience that technology has afforded us, but the luxury of technology has also deprived us of the need that drove our archetype males to become what they became.

Reliance on this greater technology has left most males feeling less male, when we compare our knowledge to what our archetype image of a man dictates what it should be. As a result, Morty types spend their lives trying to replicate their archetype’s model. At some point in their lives, most Morty types will realize that they have fallen short of this idyllic image. They know how to wire cable to their TV sets … with some margin of error. They know how to change their own oil, spot a car, and relay some inane facts about that car, and they know how to mow and fertilize a lawn, and perform some perfunctory plumbing chores, but they pale in comparison to the archetype male of their lives, often their father, because they don’t have a need to be as industrious. This is where the listener comes in. This is where the listener needs to list the distinctions and be mindful of them while playing the role of circuitous conduit to the mechanical animal’s goal of appearing to be as industrious, and mechanically inclined, as their archetype male.

Playing the role of circuitous conduit to the mechanical animal’s goal of appearing to be as industrious, allows the mechanical animal to touch the face of their archetype male’s face, even if it’s for one moment, on a lawn with a beer in hand. It also forces the listener to play the role of the idiot in their story, but the mechanical animal will love you for it, for as long as it lasts.

“A trained chimpanzee could fix that,” is something a Morty type might say from their newfound stature atop the industrious male totem pole, a place that the obliging homeowner’s open-mouthed awe has created for them. “If they were willing to put forth a little effort, a trained chimp could fix that to get a Frito reward. What kind of man are you that you can’t?” Morty types don’t often add the latter, for most of them are polite and fun-loving, but it is implied in their characterization. At this point, the listener would love to have their own idiot to create a step for them on the totem pole, but if they’re anything like me there aren’t any.

The mechanical animal might dazzle their listener with the hypothetical fixes that they have accumulated over the years, and they might leave their listener feeling guilty for being male and not knowing all this.

“All you need is a telescopic, shrub rake and a milled face, framing hammer,” is the manner in which a Morty type begin such assessments. “If you wanna call a fix-it guy, be my guest,” they say in tones that provoke compulsory responses. “If you want to go into debt, and listen to a guy demean you for not being able fix your own home that’s fine, but if you stick with me we can fix this thing in a couple hours for less than a hundred dollars.”  

To be fair to Morty types, there are Morty types and there are Morty types. Some Morty types will confess, in typical Morty type humor, that they know “just enough to keep out of trouble”, or “just enough to be dangerous”. Mechanical animals are often fun-loving beasts that may rear their ugly heads after they’ve had a few, when they’re with a bunch of fellas, looking out on their dilapidated lawn. It is not the goal of these Morty types to make you feel stupid, inept, or less than male however.

“Hey, you know your stuff and I know mine,” they may say to reveal how congenial, patient, and humble they are. If, however, the listener doesn’t make it a practice of lowering their head to the subservient position, the mechanical animal might feel a need to take them deeper into their weeds.

There are other Morty types, and everyone knows one, that will cause those that know anything about mechanical animals to dive into a row of insulation, at Home Depot, the moment the mechanical animal is spotted working their way down the aisle. These Morty types will lock onto overwhelmed, vacant eyes and giggle: “Hey Martha, writer dude here doesn’t know what a milled face, framing hammer is.” To which a more cultured Martha type will instruct him to, “Be nice Morty!” And he will, if there are no other fellas around looking at a dilapidated lawn with beer in their hands. He will, if the experienced listener finds a way respond to all of Morty’s quick-fix theoretical fixes with careful responses that provide the mechanical animal the illusion that you know something about what he’s going on about. He will, if the experienced listener adds something that alludes to the idea that they have some knowledge of the telescopic, shrub rake, and the intricate web of knowledge the mechanical animal has seduced them into.

The thing is Morty types do know things. They know just enough to secure a crowned position on the conversational mountain of knowledge, with a beer in hand, but once a desperate homeowner joins them up there they will be able to see that mechanical animals has all of the same brown patches in their yard, that they’ve had a board to cover their garage’s broken window for over a year, and a bed that collapses when a sub 200 lb. man climbs aboard, and some fancy, impressive doors that no one can close. Once a guy leaves the idyllic conversations on a lawn, and their beer goggles are removed, they witness for themselves the realities baked in a foundation of half-truths, shocking aggrandizements, and makeshift intrinsics. It’s not that mechanical animals have no idea what they’re talking about. They do know the logistics of the fix, and they know how to go about getting things fixed, but they just don’t complete these tasks very well. They’re mechanical animals.

Those of us that have made the mistake of turning a dime on these conversations have realized our mistake soon after saying:

“Well, hell, if you can fix this, for half the cost, then you are my man!” in an altruistic and platonic manner.

If the reader is anything like me, it was never our intention to call mechanical animals out on their breadth of knowledge and experience regarding fixing the quick-fixes that needed attention in our home. We just desperately wanted our home fixed. We didn’t know that there were shocking revelations to be found in the man’s home, in his car, or on the dilapidated outskirts of his lawn. If the reader is anything like me, they’ve made the mistake of not knowing the difference between mechanical animals and mechanical animal conversations that occur on a lawn, with a beer in hand, and a bunch of fellas around. The reader has also realized that there are those that do, and those that enjoy the talk of doing, and that the entire conversation was about feeding into their ravenous need to appear archetypal.

If the reader is an inexperienced observer –with no precedent– currently debating whether or not to bring in your cousin’s cousin to come in and fix your light fixture, I urge the reader that insists on bringing a mechanical animal home with them to stay in the room and talk to them. The mechanical animal might know what they’re doing, and they might even be able to fix what is required, but the reader should know that they’ll be making a HUGE mistake by leaving the mechanical animal alone in the room that needs fixing. It would be rude, of course, to invite them into your home and just leave them to fix it, but that doesn’t cover what we’re discussing here. What we’re discussing is placating to the desires of a mechanical animal that is kind enough to attempt to fix your home without pay. To do that, those of us that have experienced such things firsthand, advise the reader to affix vacant and overwhelmed eyes on you face, and say “Wow!” and “Holy Crackers, you’re smart!” a lot. Let the mechanical animal provide detailed instructions on how this can be maintained, or fixed in the future. The listener might not retain a single word of the diatribe, but that is not the goal of the mechanical animal. Their goal is to share the information they’ve spent years accumulating, so that one day one dazzled listener might provide them a crowned position atop the king-of-the-mountain game we all play with one another. Be dazzled, I advise, that’s what they’re there for.

Nine times out of ten, these Morty types don’t need the money, or the steak that they’ve been promised them if they can fix a something something that’s plagued us, and it’s not characteristic of Morty types to like the homeowner so much that they’re willing to fix something for them just because. Chances are the homeowner is filling a vital need they have just by standing there with a “Wow!” and “Holy crackers, you’re smart!” face on. Chances are, if the homeowner is an inexperienced observer, with no precedent, they might find these “Holy Crackers” expressions to be tedious after a time, or they might believe that these mechanical animals will work harder, better, and/or faster if the homeowner leaves the room to get them to stop talking about what they’re doing and just do it. That home owner will realize their HUGE mistake soon after the mechanical animal climbs down the ladder, saying they need to get a part from home, and the homeowner is left calling that “over-priced” expert three days later, paying far more than they would have if they had just called him in the first place.

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