Curt Schilling

Water world.

Water world.

Photo By Ken Widmann

One unfortunate aspect of living in Davis is that it’s so far inland, it’s darn near “flyover country” to coastal snobs. (Which makes those whales swimming on the other side of the causeway last year even more absurdly lost). We’re living in the desert, so I find it odd that there’s a company on Second Street that manufactures deep-sea robots.

According to its Web site, Schilling Robotics’ tag line is “So deep—no one comes remotely close.” This was the same one used by John Holmes. But aside from being borderline puerile, it’s a pun: Schilling makes remote-operated machines designed to perform tasks thousands of feet below the ocean surface.

Founded in 1986 and now counting 275 employees, Schilling has offices in the Gulf of Mexico and the United Kingdom, but for some reason is headquartered a stone’s throw from Davis Indoor Sports Center. I figured our readers would like to know a little more about this mysterious outfit, so a few months ago, I stopped by for a look-see.

Penetrating Schilling’s stucco and glass two-story compound, I met the gatekeeper, who suggested I leave a message for the person in charge of marketing and public relations, Barbara Gardner. A few days later, I hadn’t heard anything, so I called. Gardner apologized for the delay and said it wasn’t a good time to visit, because the company was “in production” and would have to shut down to show me around. “I’m only looking for 10 minutes,” I said, “You don’t need to stop work. I can just peek through a window if you like.” She said she would call me in a few months when, I presumed, robot season wound down.

Months later, I still hadn’t heard anything, so I buzzed ol’ Babs. So sorry, she said, it’s been crazy. When would I like to visit? She would line something up. Yet the next day, she said she couldn’t arrange an interview until I answered this: Could Schilling review my article before publication?

Um, no, I told her. That’s not how the press works, unless you’re Roger Ailes readying a puff piece on Dick Cheney. Not to worry—I wasn’t looking to rake any muck here, I explained (leaving out the fact that even if I saw some serious deep-sea HAL 9000 shit going down, my 550 allotted words wouldn’t be enough to get the word out anyway).

Then … nothing. No interview dates, no invite to be the first guy in Davis to get the bends from falling into a pressure tank, no nothing. I could understand a slaughterhouse not wanting guests on the killing floor, but a company that makes manipulator arms for oil rigs? It got me wondering—maybe they’re into some serious military black ops, or there’s been an office coup and the robots have taken control and ramped up production in advance of the war on humans, which we all know is coming.

So last week, having heard nothing more, I popped in and asked the moat operator if I could to speak with Ms. Gardner. Instantly, Gardner appeared from behind a bank of cubicles.

“Hi Ken, sorry I haven’t called you back,” she said. She was still waiting for the administration to approve my visit, she said before ushering me gently out the door.

When Davis gets attacked by droids, I warned you people.