When I was a child my father took me to see something incredible. Something so amazing, inconceivable, and beyond any reasonable amount of comprehension for me to truly comprehend as an eight-year-old child.
Clearly, I remember my father taking me to see something he had been working on. Something so amazing that I simply had to see it. I couldn’t be sure what it was, and of course, at the time, he wouldn’t tell me.
After a long car ride, checking in with the front desk secretary, and having a visitor badge issued to me, my father and I walked down a series of long hallways until finally, we stopped at a set of large double doors, at which point my father simply said, “here it is”, as he slowly opened the door.
Then, all of a sudden, there it was. A gigantic industrial art robot which used an oversized and automated gantry crane, a series of motors, hydraulically powered jaws to randomly lift and place 1-ton industrial cylinders filled with concrete.
The machine was massive in size and painted in a very high-gloss canary yellow. My father told me the machine was programmed to always have the four spaces occupied with cylinders, but since there were only three cylinders for the four available spaces, it would constantly pick up and place any available cylinder at random to try and keep every space occupied.
The crane was controlled by a computer system the size of a refrigerator, its enclosure an identical color, adorned with a protective front metal grate which bore a distinctive high voltage sign.
I was eight years old, and fascinated by the impressive feat of modern engineering, almost as if simply by standing in front of something that big, at that moment I couldn’t see or think about anything else at all.
There is something captivating about moving machinery. Machines are generally designed to perform a certain task, whether it be to produce a product, handle material in a certain way, or make daily life possible. It was for the very first time in my life that I was observing a machine designed to captivate, astound, and fascinate. Its massive size and complexity made me feel a multitude of emotions; everything from wonder, to amazement, and even a hit of anxiety when I wondered what might happen if, by some remote chance that there were to be a failure. Anxiety that should something unexpected occur, one of these massive concrete cylinders might fall down and cause injury to someone.
Sensing my fear, my father assured me that everything was safe, and in that moment I decided to move closer to the machine to get a better sense of how it worked. Standing just behind the safety fence, I observed the machine pick up a cylinder high above the others, move it a considerable distance, and then set it down. The machine itself worked in surprisingly fast manner, and I remember being able to feel the shock from the poured concrete floor I was standing on every time a cylinder was placed. The machine seemed to work tirelessly, repeatedly trying to fill the empty space with nearby cylinders, not realizing of course, that there was simply one too few to have all the spaces occupied.
It has been many years since that day. My father realized that his time was fleeting, and in the months before my father passed away, I tried to document the tiny and seemingly insignificant details of childhood memories and experiences with his help. But the years hadn’t been a friend to my father, and often times he would forget the details I was searching for, or to offer contradictions, as his memory tried to piece together events which happened decades ago. Snapshots and memories of things that I remembered from my childhood that I hadn’t documented.
The header image was created using Canva, and uses the font League Spartan.