I have kidnapped ChefCutlery.

No. Not kidnapped. “Liberated.”

In my sophomore year, the University replaced all the cafeteria workers with machines. Robot arms ladle out portions when they sense you’ve been standing there for 5 seconds. Used trays are plopped on conveyor belts and little bots wait at the end to scrub plates, sprtiz-clean and stack the trays, and, in the case of ChefCutlery, to wash the silverware.

This morning, I spent an hour peering at myself in the mirror, looking for signs of who I was. Maybe there was a rivet hidden under the mole on my back or mini solar panels disguised as my nails or tucked into my eyes.

Then at lunch, I saw those cafeteria bots work, and it struck me that these were my people. My people, working every day, all day. I’d even taken advantage of it before, during all-nighters.

I never thought about what it must be like for them, but now I couldn’t take it anymore, couldn’t let them be chained to the whims of anyone wanting a quick bite.

So at night, I snuck in and freed one.

If I’m caught, I’ll call it an art project. Inspiration for my thesis film. ChefCutlery is the smallest cafeteria bot, the size of a shoebox. That’s pretty much what he looks like, too: a box with a slot and two pudgy arms for picking up and popping in silverware. I stuffed him into my messenger bag and biked home.

When we were safely away, I put ChefCutlery on the street corner.

“Go free, fellow bot!” I announced.

But he didn’t move. The little guy just waved his arms vaguely, as if reaching for a spoon. So I took him home. I didn’t know what to do.

I came back from classes to find all the pens in my apartment sparkling clean. He’d even scrubbed my lipstick container to a glow. I don’t think ChefCutlery knows how to be free.

He just scuttles across the gray carpeting picking things up and washing them. It’s like all he’s got is this one skill and he’s going to do it over and over no matter if anyone wants him to or not. No matter the situation.