S1E11 - Hermes 4000
S. Owen Sow has a bit of a reputation. Having spent most of his childhood floating around on a cloud, he has never had to regularly do chores. I have nothing against Owen, but he can be a bit hard to rely on for our day to day duties. For example, S. Owen Sow was responsible for the laundry one day. He needed to go around all of the house, gather the clothes from hampers, and put them in the washing machine. Instead, he filled the washing machine with paint to make a new art installation. It was a really cool piece of art, but the entire collective had to go wear dirty clothes for two weeks while we waited for a replacement machine.
We’ve tried to come up with a couple different solutions to make sure that all the chores get done and that Owen is pulling his weight. We decided to give him the job of bringing the food deliveries into the walk in fridge. It tends to be one of the shortest jobs because all you do is wheel a wheelbarrow full of food over to the walk in fridge. It’s one single task, not too complicated, and he has Stevie to help him make sure it gets over there.
Stevie is the bush pilot who makes the food deliveries to Calisland on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. Stevie is really cool. Like really cool. She has a tattoo of the big dipper and north star on her back because she once crashed her plane in the Alaskan wilderness and had to navigate back to society using the stars. She is really cool.
Calisland doesn’t have a runway. When it was designed, it was intended to have all the supplies delivered via boat. If you’ve ever tried to unload groceries on stormy ocean waters, then you know why that’s a bad idea. So, to keep things easy and safe, we fly out the supplies and just have Stevie land on the main street.
We told S. Own Sow that he would be in charge of bringing in the food. He just had to meet Stevie on Main Street in the morning. The plane she flies is loud so wherever Owen was, he’d be able to hear her land. If he didn’t, one of us would and we could help keep him on track.
Owen wasn’t too enthusiastic of the idea. He tried to trade chores with Tommy B., who was assigned to clean the cat litter box. Of course, since we replaced all our cats with Roombas, cleaning the cat litter box has become one of the easiest jobs on the commune. It’s more of just filling up the letterbox with sand so the Roombas have something to eat and they stay out of the pantry. Of course Tommy B. refused and Owen resigned to his job of Food Courier.
Now, this was all shaping up to work quite well. We had everyone involved to check each other’s backs and make sure that Owen got the food. It probably would’ve gone swimmingly… if it wasn’t for a rather loud distraction.
OK, time for a little bit of backstory. So we were on the mainland doing a podcast tour to promote our most recent mini-series, Main Street Mythology. You know about podcast tours, right? They’re kind of like book tours where you visit podcast shops across the nation, perform readings, and sign podcasts for all your adoring fans. Well we are huge thrift store heads so while we were traveling around we made sure to visit nearly every thrift store we could find.
One was particularly memorable. It was called Ol’ Joe’s Ol’ Trove. It was staffed by one man, who I assume was Joe. He was, in fact, very old. Ol’ Joe’s skin was loose and would make a slapping sound as he hobbled about hunched over an exquisite cane. The cane had a curving redwood stem and what appeared to be a sapphire knob at the top. A price tag dangled from the handle. We asked if the cane was for sale and he said of course, everything was for sale. When he turned around we noticed price tags hanging from his shirt, suspenders, pants, and shoes.
We all poked around for a little bit. Picking up snow globes, stiff necklaces, and buckets of old rusty nails. It was a quaint little shop, but I don’t think we were planning on purchasing anything. That was, until we saw it.
There, in the far corner of the store on a giant wooden pedestal, was the massive Hermes 4000 typewriter.
For those who don’t know, the Hermes is a popular line of typewriter models from the 60’s and 70’s. It is most well known for the Hermes 3000 model, which is Tom Hanks’ favorite typewriter. What most people don’t know is that there was a model made after the 3000. This one never took off in popularity, mainly because of the introduction of computers, but it was still an important development in the world of typewriting. That is because the Hermes 4000 was the first ever gas powered typewriter.
The main body of the machine looks the same. A compact, curling typewriter with nice calm swoops and a mint-green coloring. Where the 4000 stands out is the large, greasy, steel engine hooked up to the side. Many people criticized the engine, saying that it was three times the size of the typewriter, that it was ugly, and that it really detracted from a lot of the selling points of the 3000 typewriter. However, I disagree. I think that this hulking brutal mechanism juxtaposes quite nicely against the sheik design of the quaint typewriter. Regardless of whether you like the Hermes 4000, it is impossible to ignore the rarity and value of the item.
We checked the price tag, $15. We emptied our pockets, pooled together whatever cash we had, but could only muster up about a buck 75. That’s when Julia had an idea. We had a Patreon right? That’s right, we had recently set up a Patreon account and had several generous sponsors! We made a withdrawal from our account and was able to get exactly $15, enough to buy the Hermes 4000.
It took 4 of us to move the machine, as it was very large. We brought it up to the counter and Ol’ Joe rang it up. We also noticed that the cash register had a price tag on it. $1.75. It was one of those cool vintage cash registers you might see in an old ice cream shop so we gathered the money we had pooled and bought the cash register too.
In hindsight, we probably should’ve waited to buy the Hermes 4000 until after our podcast tour. We had to carry it around with us the rest of the trip, getting it through airport security, fitting it in taxis, having it awkwardly sit just to the side of our podium while we did Q and A’s. In the end though, we had this great typewriter. We could not wait to get it home, perform some minor repairs, fill it with gas, and start writing the next great American novel.
Eventually, we all made it back from our tour. This was late on June 3rd and we collapsed and fell asleep pretty much immediately. The next day was the shipment, but also the day we could finally play with the Hermes 4000. Luckily, AI 4-82 is an amazing mechanist. The AI was designed around the same time as the Hermes series of typewriters so it knew how to fix them quite well. AI 4-82 directed us as we clipped wires, hot glued keys, and used cheap plaster to make gears. It was almost time to start it up.
We gathered the whole collective in the workshop. There was a long debate over what we should write first on the machine. Augie suggested ‘The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.’ I was leaning towards “thank you patrons”. Julia Sawbone suggested we write a short story to break it in. We talked for quite some time until we finally had a suggestion everyone liked. Our first typewritten message would be a thank you letter to David Dear, our wonderful friend over at the Ninth World Journal podcast. He had recently sent us a bunch of stickers from his show and everyone wanted to thank him. It was settled, we knew what to type, now we just had to type it.
I hopped up onto the table to crank up the engine. I primed the gas, grabbed the starter cord, and gave it a yank. It stuttered for a second before s puttering to a stop. I tried it again, some thing. Everyone was pretty antsy. S. Owen Sow shouted from the back of the room asking if I closed the choke. I told him that I was sure I had but he was already pushing his way to the front. He hoped up onto the stage, found the choke, and closed it. Apparently I had left it open. Owen pulled the cord and the typewriter started up immediately.
The engine was very loud. It ended up startling all the Roombas in the room and they went scurrying out of the workroom. S. Owen Sow began plunking away at the keys, the large engine revving every time the carriage moved. Everyone was watching, mesmerized.
After what felt like an hour, Sumpra, who was basically the collective’s medic, suggested that we take this outside. The exhaust was pumping from the engine and she was rightfully worried about our health. Everyone agreed and we got a couple people to help us take the idling engine out into the front yard. Once we got out there, we realized our mistake.
The smell hit us before we saw it. It was the food. All of the supplies Stevie had brought us were sitting in the middle of the street, rotting. None of us had heard the plane over the sound of the typewriter’s engine. In retrospect, this was everyone’s fault. People got mad at S. Owen Sow for not having brought in the food. After a little bit of shouting and arguing I was finally able to get everyone to calm down. It was determined that S. Owen Sow would have to clean up this mess, sort through the food to find what is usable, and throw out the rest. Sumpra, the caretakers, and I would go to the kitchen to start rationing the food we had leftover from last delivery.
The whole experience left a sour taste in most people’s mouth, but we’re working through it. Or at least we’re trying to. S. Owen Sow found something that… complicated matters a bit. You’ll hear all about that next month on a new episode of Broadcast.