Electronic devices are sneaky. I rejected Alexa when she showed up on my Kindles a couple of years ago. I refused to even allow it to run and when asked if it could be turned on, I said “No.”
“No no no,” I cried. I didn’t want any more electronic devices. Didn’t we have enough? Televisions, Rokus, five computers and three or four Kindles. Headphones, speakers, Bluetooth items everywhere plus CD and DVD players. Even a couple of miniature tape recorders I bought with every intention of using them, though they have lain useless and are now old after years of non-use. I don’t even remember how they work. It’s possible I never knew how they worked and that’s why I never used them.
Of course there are my cameras. They get plenty of use. Like my computers, they are part of how I stay sane in a world gone mad.
One day, maybe a year ago, someone gave us an Alexa. A small Echo Dot so Garry could connect with an organization with which he was working. That was when I discovered I could also use Alexa to give me quick news updates, weather, and music. It turned out to be a perfect alarm clock — as long as the power doesn’t go out. I don’t use alarms much, but once in a while, there’s an early doctor’s appointment or a phone call I need to make early in the day. Usually, it’s a medical thing. My world is pretty much circumscribed by doctor appointments, grocery shopping, and calls to medical venues. Every once in a while, I also call a friend.
Somewhere during this period, Owen came back to live here. It was fortunate timing because it turned out to be a few weeks before lockdown.
We’ve been in lockdown forever. Owen has become our “go to” person which means we don’t have to haul groceries up the stairs or spend any more time than necessary out there, in Plague Land. Very shortly after that, Owen gifted us with an iPhone 11 and gradually, over the months, it has become the phone. Not only is it loud enough for Garry to hear — possibly a miracle in its own right — but it has all my numbers in it plus a calendar so I don’t have to remember anything. Since I can’t remember anything anyway, it’s a definite perk. I discovered I could use it with Facetime to see and speak with a friend. Normally I wouldn’t do that, but these days, it’s the only way I see anyone who doesn’t live in the house.
At some point between getting us the phone and the beginning of winter, Owen decided he liked Alexa. Amazon dropped the prices on them in November before the Christmas rush, so he ordered one of the bigger ones. It came bundled (free) with a lightbulb. No hub required. After some grousing, he set it up and discovered he could turn on the lights in the garage from the driveway — using his iPhone and an app that understands lightbulbs. No more stumbling through the dark garage on his way home.
After that, Alexa really moved in. I got a lightbulb in the bedroom so I could stop feeling around for the switch on my bedside lamp. Better yet, I could turn out the lamp without getting out of bed. For that matter, I could turn it on from bed, so when I’m trying to find a pill in the middle of the night, I don’t have to turn on my blindingly bright table lamp or stumble to the bathroom hoping I don’t break a toe.
I decided I wanted the Alexa that came with a clock since they were on sale too. It meant I could get rid of the big clock that was taking up half the space on my bookcase cum headboard. Meanwhile, Owen got serious about lightbulbs and bought some multi-color (millions upon millions of colors) lightbulbs. We have one in the living room that will turn any color you can name. The lamp over the sofa which we never used because the switch was so hard to find works too — at least when I can remember what it’s called.
All our lights and lamps have names. Oh, I forgot. We also have plugs. That’s so if we don’t have a bulb, we can connect a lamp — and then any bulb will work. There are oddities. If I have my Mac running, my cell phone loses its speaker. No idea why, but Owen thinks its a Bluetooth issue. Since I don’t actually understand how my Mac works and can’t usually even find its settings, I just close down the Mac. We’ve got Bluetooth all over the place from the television speaker setup to Garry’s implanted cochlear device. Everything wants to attach itself to Garry’s implant. For a while, my Kindle hooked itself to his implant and he could listen to my audiobooks whether he liked it or not. He found that disturbing. I thought it was funny, but I could see why it wasn’t going to work for him. The audiologist at the hospital fixed it and said it was impossible and couldn’t happen, but it happens every time we set up a new Bluetooth device. The first thing it connects to is Garry’s head. It’s very Borg.
At some point, we got music from Amazon’s gigantic collection of every song ever recorded — except a few that for some reason are missing. During the whole tragic period of lockdown with Trump trying to undo Democracy, I used Alexa to update me on current events. We no longer have current events, only hopes we’ll get vaccinated someday and be allowed to leave home without a mask. Meanwhile, Alexa turns lights on as instructed and sometimes turns on more lights that we intended in places we weren’t planning. Voices carry. If Owen talks too loud downstairs, our living room Alexa says ” What? I didn’t understand that,” and I tell her “Forget it,” and she says, “Okay, sorry.” You can, it turns out, have a complete conversation with her pretty much anywhere in the house.
I think we’ve got as of today, six Echos on two floors and that doesn’t count the Alexa apps built into the Kindles strewn around the house or any of the Bluetooth stuff which interacts with the iPhone — and with Garry’s cochlear implant. I find is highly amusing that as soon as I try to pair a Bluetooth device with anything, the first thing it tries to pair with is Garry. Actually, you can’t stop it. It’s feels his waves in the air and hooks itself up. He doesn’t even have to be in the same room. That’s one powerful transmitter he has in his head. I love how the doctor assured us that this is impossible and can’t happen. I never bother to contradict them since doctors always know everything. I suppose it’s part of their job.
You see what I mean about sneaky? I fear for anyone who has a child named “Alexa.” Did I mention Alexa reminds me when she thinks I’m running out of something I usually order on Amazon? Puts it into my cart so I won’t forget. One of these day, she will acquire hands and feet. Then she can cook, do dishes, and clean the bathroom. Maybe even dust and vacuum.
Do not mention “her” name while discussing her or she will says “What? Can you repeat that?” and you’ll have to say “Never mind” and she’ll apologize and it gets complicated.