My ball bearings

Was listening to an episode of Car Talk — yeah yeah, bicycling practicality-scorning type who has no desire or understanding for cars or grease, but for some reason I like the show — when the three words of the title came up, and all of a sudden I was certain that in the future, somewhere, somewhen, there will be a call-in show for cyborgs that’s run pretty much like Car Talk is.

* * *

“Hi, who’s this?”

“Oh, hi, it’s Sarax from Sacramento, High California, hi guys!”

“Is that ess ah arr ah ex?”


“So Sarax, what’s your problem?”

“Oh so I have these Toyota Liftor Z4 forty-nine arms that keep making a weird sound when I do pushups —”

“Pushups? What’d you do, Sarah? Professional exercising?”

“Hwa haw haw haw!”

“No, guys, actually I volunteer for the all-fleshes, over at the Provo enclave, the sweet little place, most beautiful scenery anywhere, and it means I do all the exercises they do too. You know, like real muscle exercise. I’m just worried this noise means I’ve ruined my arms doing silly push-ups and stuff, because it’s really repetive, right?”

“Hm, okay, first thing, you sure you’ve not caught some nasty bug off the fleshies?”

“Hwa haw haw haw!”

“Eeh heh heh!”

“Giggity giggity.”

“Hm, okay. Enough kidding. So how many ops do you have on those arms?”

“Twenty-two thousand. Bought them used a month ago. You two think it’s something the seller didn’t tell me about?”

“Okay, so they’re not that old. Could you make the sound for us?”

“I can do better! Here’s a recording from this morning — ‘ka-chik! ka-chik! ka-chik!’ How’s that sound like?”

“Hmmm. I still say you’ve caught something off the fleshies!”

“Hwa haw haw haw! No, really, that’s… let me guess, they keep doing it for a few push-ups, and then the sound gets a bit liquid and goes away?”


“And the arms feel a little sluggish if you try to move them quicker?”

“Yeah! Exactly!”

“Ooh, I get it. The ball bearings!”

“Right! I suggest you crack them open at elbows and look at the smaller ball bearings there. Not the big ones but the tiny inner- and outer-joint ones. There should be a self-diagnostic for it — look for the intersection of ‘hard maintenance’, ‘elbow room’ and ‘B slash 7’ — but it’s not on any regular list because you have to do this in a place with absolutely no dust, or you’ll ruin the arms for good. Also might be good if you have someone else doing it; it’s kind of difficult with just one hand and you want to feel the readings to be sure nothing goes awry.”

“Oh dear.”

“No biggie. Now, this usually happens when people don’t remember to oil the small parts —”

“Ooh, right!”

“— and sometimes one of them cracks, and it makes the noise. It’s not because of the push-ups. That won’t ruin arms. That’s just a myth. The good news —”

“Oh, good.”

“— is it’s easy to take out if you just follow the self-diagnostic, just keep checking the listed bearings until you find one that’s spiderwebbed all over; if it was really in pieces the diagnostic would have told you so. The arms should work just fine without one ball. Now the bad news —”

“Oh, oh.”

“— is it’s okay if it’s just this one bearing, but if the rest of the bearings have taken too much of the strain and are going bad, it’s going to be expensive. Don’t wait; get your arms checked. Like we always say, limbs have a bad habit of dropping off the moment you least expect it, unless you take care of them.”

“Oh dear.”

“I’d say go show them to a techoctor; if it’s just this one bearing get a new one, and if the rest are bad go and track the guy you bought the arms from. Tell him we sent you.”

“Oh, okay, fine! Thanks a lot guys!”

“Thanks, Sarah, bye!”

“Now a break, and after the break the answer to our last week’s puzzler, which was from my Home Fusion series.”

“Oh, that was… er…”

“It had two cyborg brothers, one of them demented!”

“Hwa haw haw haw! No really, what was it?”

“Think about plasma, neutrinoes and Scotland — but now a break, with music by Android Bob Dylan, the Emperor of Chicago.”

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