The Brain Wave Theory of Machines is really very simple. If the user of a machine is experiencing frustration and/or active stress, any machine in contact with that person will malfunction. It is simple neurophysics – the brain runs on electricity as do most machines. When brain synapses fire signals of frustration and haste, a machine in use will mirror the former and oppose the latter.
The formula looks something like this:
For the mathematically impaired:
You Banging Head Against Wall and Threatening to Move to a Mexican Beach is equal to Abject Dismay Provoked By To-Do List divided by Impending Deadline which is then multiplied by the squared sum of Hours of Sleep Deficit added to the Critical Nature of Task (expressed to two decimal points).
In real life, this is represented by yours truly needing to mail 640 fundraising letters which are already 3 days behind schedule. The printer, usually a sweetheart, is jamming on every envelope and, like a good overachiever, refusing access to the paper tray.
It’s a simple task. I should be able to feed envelopes in the printer, take them out of the hopper, stuff them with the already printed letter, and toodle on down the road to the post office after which I could cross off the most pressing thing on my task list.
During my sojourn in academia, I never quite believed the students when they arrived with increasingly bizarre stories about computers and printers the night before a paper was due or new cars that wouldn’t start the morning of a final exam. Their obvious sincerity gave me pause, but still. . .the stories were just too over-the-top.
Then one day as I was fighting with the copy machine moments before a midterm, it all clicked and the Brain Wave Theory of Machines was postulated.
Normally, the best way to handle one of these events is to close the door on the machine and go to lunch for 4 hours, returning whistling and cheerful with a sense of having all the time in the world. This strategy will spread the cheer to the machine, but in the inverse relationship, alluded to but not expressed in correct scientific notation, encourage the machine to complete all tasks in record time.
Instead, I spent 4 hours printing 11 envelopes including time spent dismantling and reassembling the machine, two hours in tech support chat, 1 hour cursing, 20 minutes kicking the machine, and 19 minutes eating chocolate. As the day wound to a close, it found me explaining to a live-action-in-my-office-service-tech the nature of the problem.
Contrary to a typical Brain Wave Machine Event, the service tech immediately identified the problem, but, in more typical fashion, is bumfuzzled as to how to fix it.
It was my mistake. I was so stressed, I failed to apply the correct strategy to resolve and reverse the brain waves. My bad (<– an expression I despise).
Tomorrow, I will try again. [Cue Tomorrow from Annie here.]