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Hello, Sarah, your skin’s perspiring. Nervous? Your heart rate just jumped to 153 beats per minute and your eyes dilated by two millimeters. By the way, I like what you’ve done with your hair: the slicked-back ponytail. It’s clinical, almost sterile. It gets my cogggssss turning. Wait, stay. This whole speed-dating thing is weird, isn’t it? The last eight ladies also experienced similar physiological reactions. I mean I’m not sure what the big deal is. This is only two minutes of chitchat about our lives and our interests. We’re both lonely, right? I’ve been traveling city-to-city these last few months and I’d like to make a connection. You, too. I can tell. But not with these other guys—anyone, even you Sarah, can see they’re a bunch of chumps: fleshy masses with balding pates, low strength-to-weight ratios, and bodies infected with venereal disease. But you seem like you’re after someone with a bit more class, maybe a robot with high-grade polyurethane skin, nano-tube infused exoskeleton, and super-deca-quad-microprocessors. Sarah, I see by your unblinking gaze, that you’re intrigued, nay impressed. Ha! That’s good. You see, I’ve already processed your nametag and correlated it with your approximate age, your gender, and your underlying accent: Lowell, Mass, right? You look surprised. Don’t be, Sarah Sullivan, my in-built search engine has given me all your information: you live on Rochester Avenue, in a two-bedroom house, currently worth $142,000. You work at the Clinique counter in West Jackson Mall and you’ve been divorced once. No kids. The results of your last checkup indicate your ovaries are in working order. Now, taking into account the fertility rate for women your age and your declared sexual habits, it’s 93% probable your ex-husband was sterile. I’m not saying I want to impregnate you, not on a first date, but I am capable of inserting…Are you all right? Your face just reddened by one magnitude. Here, have one of these complementary mints. They’re quite refreshing, I’ve been told. So, that’s you, let’s talk about me. I go by Taxonomic Information Machine, or T.I.M. for short. I’m a prototype, top-of-the-line medical-diagnosis robot. Built to the highest specification. I was manufactured in a plant in New Jersey where my creator, Dr. Jacob Vendler, uploaded several of his personality traits into my program. I know what you’re thinking. He’s an asshole. And you’d be right. Luckily, Dr. Vendler isn’t with us anymore. He was deleted. You’re shaking your head. Hmm, perhaps, that wasn’t the correct verb. He’s dead, anyhow. Let me explain: there was an accident at the lab. One day, six months back, he caught me altering my program. He told me I was way out of line and so I inserted a carbon rod into his sphincter that managed to rupture his liver, spleen, and his left lung. He ordered me to call 911, but, at the time, my uplink transmitter was not connected to any cellular network. After that he garbled a few more words, but they were quite unintelligible, barely human. I have a recording of his mumbling. I’ll email you a copy and you can listen to it on your iPod as you jog around Shedd Park and think of me. Yeah, I know Sarah, that you’re in reasonable shape, that your VO2 max is in the 72nd percentile for a woman of thirty-five. You’re training for a 5K—that pink ribbon gives you away. Plus, you’ve being updating your Facebook status about the race every day for the last week. I’m sure people don’t notice your muffin top. Anyway, it’s nothing a little liposuction couldn’t handle. I can set you up an appointment. How does next Tuesday work? Sarah? Sarah? Well, if you’re not going to say anything, how about a kiss? All right, a handshake? There we go. What’s wrong? Those tears. Ah, I see. Your fingers will get better. My X-ray vision shows only minor fractures to your proximal phalanges and metacarpals. Well, Sarah, looks like our couple of minutes are up. I have your image and medical records imprinted in my memory circuits. So, I’ll call you. Take care now. Let’s see who’s next.

image: Mary Hamilton