Fascinating courtly intrigue and bloody power games set on a generation ship full of secrets―Medusa Uploaded is an imaginative, intense mystery about family dramas and ancient technologies whose influence reverberates across the stars. Disturbing, exciting, and frankly kind of mind-blowing.” ―Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous

Friday, May 10, 2024

Michael's Chronicle: Springfield, MO

Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.

May 8
Springfield, Mo

Hammers and Coin Ops

Curious heading, huh? Appropriate though. So let’s get at it.

Before talking about my latest travel indignity let me provide some important information of which the reader may not be aware. The hammer was first invented, according to archeologists, in about 30,000 B.C. - give or take. The coin operated washing machine was introduced to the world by Harry Greenwald of New York in 1957. (I would say God Rest His Soul but I’m not feeling that way at this moment). So, this question: who’s been around longer?

I travel for a living. I’m a sweet smelling guy so I don’t whiff myself too often. I shower once a week at least when I am alone (which is most of the time) and not exhibiting at a show. My clothes on the other hand take it upon themselves to get dirty and attract some stank (stank def: primordial stink) independent of my efforts. I throw them in bags and piles and grace them every eight or ten days with a detergent spiked drowning at my current motel or a laundromat. Concessions to inanimate objects.

I arrived at the Red Roof Inn in Springfield, Mo. last night, took my first shower in a few days and read the email from my ripening clothing, sequestered for the last week in a cardboard box. The message was simple: “How about a wash and tumble.” Reasonable request. The front desk confirmed the presence of a guest laundry and offered change for their usage, along with one single-load box of Cheer. Made me feel cheerful the same way a Snickers bar makes me chuckle. Thank you product-naming gods.

Six quarters - buck and a half. Cheap for a wash load these days. Same price for the dryer. Things were smelling rosey already. Detergent in the tub, as instructed. Clothing next. Push the coin carrier forward, listen to the quarters drop and slide back. Not so fast.

The coin carrier dropped nothing. Simply jammed in the “in” position. Trapped my money in the housing surrounding the coin drop box. I squinted, muttered minor expletives and grabbed the coin slide. Gently pushing and pulling at first - “teasing it - cajoling. I stood back, staring at it and sending it psychic encouragement. At that moment I noticed that the coin slider was gashed and marred, its chrome finish somewhat tortured. The light bulb in my brain popped on. This inanimate object had messed with humans in the past and they had messed back. To my right on a folding table tucked mostly under a coin detergent dispenser protruded the handles of what proved to be a large set of channel locks. Brighter light. The coin slider was sticking all the time and rather than replace it or the machine, management had left the means for unwedging it. Thus the badly marred coin slider. I bought in and picked up the channel locks.

No sale, that, despite a lot of jerking, twisting and yanking. The slider had new gashes. I went to the desk clerk and reported the problem. She rolled her eyes. She’d heard it all before and cursed management under her breath. Back to the guest laundry we went. I watched her take a turn with the channel locks, to no avail. She told me to come back later - she’d call someone.

Hours later, when I returned to the motel after my errands, the coin slider had been released and my clothes lay in the bottom of the tub washed and spun. I placed them in the dryer, inserted my six quarters and pushed the slider. Nowhere. Literally. It budged not a scintilla of an inch. Forget the channel locks. My mind flipped straight to hammers. I searched the internet for the nearest House of Hammers outlet. No luck. But alas, their competitor, “Hammer Kingdom,” had a branch nearby.

I wish such places really existed in moments like this. They’re the only place I’d go. Specialty house. Hammer for any problem or occasion. I wanted a coin-op slider adjuster. I envisioned a retired ex body builder standing behind the counter with football sized biceps adorned with a large tattoo originally depicting a pretty girl's face but now distorted badly by wrinkles and looking for all the world like an elephant’s butt cheeks. They say we improve with age. All things are relative, now, aren’t they? The guy would possess a growl of a voice essentially farted off of vocal cords ravaged stiff by years of smoking filter free cigarettes and exhausted by yelling at his wife. (Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, here.) Anyway, a man’s man. He’d have the right hammer.

From this dark space I returned eventually. I asked the new desk clerk if I could use the motel’s commercial dryer since the housekeeping staff had already gone home for the day. She was kind enough to allow it. No need after all for Hammer Kingdom. I did my breathing exercises.



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