Mapmaker, Ferment Thyself!


Much has been written this week on the subject of fermented robot cartography. And, as the nice man from the news syndicate has offered me a raw fish, I suppose it will be my duty to contribute to the discussion. Some people may protest that such a topic is best left to those with “proper qualifications.” To this I can only reply that some people have “proper qualifications” to go jump in Lake Champlain.


From the get-go, this matter of what the French have dubbed das Vermentlichautomatonkartographie appeared to bear looking into, if only for the Green Stamps. It was unclear to me, for instance, whether it was the cartography or the robot that was fermented—and this, I’m told by reliable sources, is the kind of thing that can keep a thinking man awake at night.


And so this morning I put on my most fetching hat and went ’round to pay a visit to the cartographic robot. It turns out the robot—fermented or otherwise—is on a sort of sabbatical this year (the explanation was too technical for me to follow), so I was left with a choice of interviewing the kitchen clock or sitting in on poker with the cartographic fellas. Fifty dollars later, I saw the grave error I’d made and proposed marriage to the clock. (We’re registered at Bulova, under the name “Edwin Drood and His Scarsdale Jazz Hogs.”)


Having been thus derailed (for lack of a stronger word), I decided to try a different approach. After clearing an adequate, you may say extravagant amount of space on my desk, I set about making a list of questions that I would ask myself if I were a robot. The list appears in translation below. Book-club reprints are available for a song—with a three-dollar fee for the song, not including drinks or gratuities. And any promises you make to the piano player are no responsibility of mine. I just wish to make that much clear at the outset, to avoid unpleasantness later on.


Question 1. First, let’s sort out the terminology: When you say “robot,” does your tongue go behind the teeth?

Question 2. Are those your own teeth, anyway, Mr. Robot?

Question 3. If not, whose then?

Question 4. I won’t ask about the hair.


Now that I’ve earned a fair degree of expertise on the topic, I’ve booked myself on a thirty-day speaking tour, and canceled my newspaper subscription for thirty-one days. (I don’t know about you, but I find I can’t read the paper my first day back without my eyes changing seats.) The only trouble is, my initial engagement seems to be in a place called Philadelphia, which does not appear on any map in my home. So if any cartographic robot should be looking at this, please meet me inside Grand Central at three forty-five, as I could use a little help. I’ll be facing away from the clock, out of consideration for my fiancée.