Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Opinion

With machines, bad news still comes in threes

During his standup comedy days, Woody Allen once observed that whenever he left his apartment he was convinced all the appliances would get together to conspire against him. There's no small measure of truth to this.

Like that old axiom that famous people die in threes, don't you have a sneaking suspicion the various devices we depend upon in life also tend to go on the fritz in triplicate?

A few weeks ago, there I was driving home late one afternoon, minding my own business listening to the radio when suddenly — bam!

A huge piece of shredded truck tire was flying toward me on I-275, as if traversing the roadway daily, navigating construction slowdowns and slowdowns just for the heck of it, isn't enough of a hassle.

Stuck in traffic in the middle lane, I couldn't avoid the debris, and by the time I reached the hump on the Howard Frankland Bridge, the car was overheating. Two hours later the tow truck driver finally arrived.

"You know what we call this?" the driver said as we examined the damage. "You got bit by a crocodile." Ah, tow truck driver vernacular can be so quaint.

A single piece of a truck tire had taken out my front bumper, the radiator, the hood lock latch and something called a stabilizer bar (whatever that is) and done numerous other sundry damage. Repairs took three weeks.

After dinner earlier this month we turned off the oven. The next morning the oven was still on and apparently unresponsive to the "Off" button. And this is why God created Sears.

By the time you read this, the new oven ought to have been installed, hopefully with a control panel that knows its place around humans. The very nice salesperson informed us that the new cooking device is capable of functioning as a "convection" oven (whatever that is). The Bombshell of the Balkans was excited. I figured it is just one more bell and whistle to eventually go on the fritz.

Days ago I finally got my car back. Days later the "Service Engine Soon" light went on. At first I thought the car was simply trying to say hello after such a long absence.

Normally when things appear awry with cars, my first attempt at initiating a repair is to turn the radio up. Alas the light did not go off, as if to inform me: "Listen, you imbecile, I'm trying to tell you I'm not feeling well and unless you do something about this light, I'm going to search out another piece of truck tire. And by the way, I can't stand NPR's The Splendid Table."

As it turned out I needed a new spark plug, and an ignition coil — whatever that is, although I deduced it had something to do with turning on the engine — was (altogether now) on the fritz.

With a bit of luck, our trilogy of fritzes has come to an end for the time being, although late at night I swear I've been hearing the water heater plotting with the clothes dryer. I've never trusted them in the first place.

And the garbage disposal always has been a prima donna insisting that the only thing it will accept is perhaps an egg yolk. But only if it's in a good mood.

Meanwhile the Smart television has been pixilating lately, blaming the whole thing on the cable company. The smart TV is such a wisenheimer. You call a gizmo a smart something and it begins to think it can get away with anything.

Just when I thought I was out of the woods, I thought I might take my old Chevy for a spin. Flat tire. I could have sworn I saw the trash compactor smirking.