“You are a machine!”
I have lost count of the number of times coworkers and supervisors have said this to me over the years. Mostly they say it because when necessary, I can crank out a ridiculous volume of high quality work in a short time. And in advertising and marketing, this is a needful thing fairly often.
I work well under pressure. Usually. And it’s nice, after growing up being told I was an oversensitive basket case, to have people recognize that ability. I worked hard to get it.
But it’s an odd compliment, isn’t it? “You are a machine!”
“What kind of machine?” I sometimes want to ask. A machine like Data from Star Trek, or a machine like the combine a tractor drags rattling and whining over the field next to my house? If I were a machine, what would my primary function be? Drinking coffee? Making long strings of pretty words? Following people around and cleaning up after them like a really tall Roomba?
It’s also a compliment I get exclusively from men. Maybe it’s masculine to appreciate the ability to shut down panic and other pesky emotions, and just churn out accomplishment. When I get similar compliments from women, it usually includes words like “calm” and “focus.” So maybe it’s not that women and men don’t both appreciate the ability – we just use different metaphors?
I don’t feel like a machine lately. I’ve had some health issues come up, which have made it hard for me to stay productive. And of course, there’s the small fact that the world seems to be ripping itself apart at the seams. Bombings in Turkey and Iraq. Young men being killed, by all appearances, for the crime of being Black. Police officers mowed down by snipers during a peaceful protest.
And vitriol everywhere, pumping through society like blood…
like the pneumatic fluid in a machine that doesn’t feel, doesn’t think, and doesn’t ever stop.