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March 4, 2021

I Am Not Alexa

by Anne Paddock

Just a few short months ago, we were doing simple things – turning the lights on and off, playing music, and shopping on-line – all by ourselves.  But, things changed around the holidays when the cloud-based voice service called “Alexa” entered our home. Thinking her dad would love to have someone turn the lights on and off, give a weather update, or turn on whatever music he wants to listen to, my daughter decided to give him “Alexa” for Christmas.  But, my daughter was also thinking of me.

There’s an on-going joke in our home that no one is allowed to ask me any questions until I finish my first cup of coffee.  That 10 minutes of silence dedicated to enjoying a mug of hot brew is cherished quiet time for me where I don’t have to think or do anything. Knowing that my husband is a live wire in the morning, my daughter thought having an “Alexa” would satisfy my husband’s urge for early morning conversation while allowing me a few minutes of peace and quiet.

Like most people of our generation, neither my husband nor I are very tech savvy (we secretly long for the good old days when “on and off” buttons dominated the market).  What comes as second nature to a millennial does not to a baby boomer.  Knowing this, my daughter did the set-up for Alexa (3 times) and instructed him of the benefits of having Alexa on his nightstand.  While hesitant at first and calling her by various incorrect names (Alex, Aaron, Alyse), my husband was within days, barking commands:  “Alexa, turn the light on!”  And, bam the light went on. “Alexa, play Sarah Brightsman” and within a few seconds, one of the world’s most talented sopranos was playing in the background.  This continued for weeks with my husband often telling me how much he liked Alexa. I quietly and secretly cheered.  It really does take a village.

I suspect that my husband’s infatuation with Alexa had a lot to do with a machine giving him instant gratification as soon as he woke up because he is a man who starts the day asking “what are we doing today?”  He measures his day by how much he gets done so better to start right away. While some people pretend to still be asleep so they don’t have to get up to tend the crying baby, I have, at times, feigned sleep so I don’t have to answer questions in the early morning hours. But, I digress.

My husband has reverted to old behavior that he hasn’t displayed in 20 years, asking me a zillion questions in the morning (Is it going to rain today? Should I wear a vest or a sweater?  Did you bring the Wall Street Journal in? Is the plumber coming today? What’s for lunch?) thinking I am going to respond like Alexa, which I am incapable of doing.  And, then there is the shopping.  While watching Jimmy Kimmel one night, my husband learned that Alexa can also do the shopping.  When boxes of microfiber towels, Oreos, and tire cleaner started arriving at the house, I realized the real difference between me and Alexa is the word “no.”  I have a monster on my hands, and it’s not my husband.

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