I recently invested in a smart home device: Amazon Alexa to be exact. I was pretty indifferent to her initially, intending to bestow upon her the same benign neglect I’ve directed at every goldfish or house plant I’ve ever owned and eventually killed.
For a couple weeks she sat there on the corner of my desk and we regarded each other coolly. Once in a while I’d bark out a command like “Alexa, tell me the weather” or, “Alexa, what’s another word for persuasive?” But I was more interested in seeing her pretty blue ring light up than actually hearing answers. She was desktop eye candy. I wasn’t paying her to think.
I know people use their smart home devices to perform several home functions, and while I was curious and excited about that possibility, I knew my lack of technical knowledge and inability to follow through on .... pretty much everything ... would make summoning the patience to navigate the apps and interfaces nearly impossible.
Would I like to be able to control my home’s temperature, lights, music and security system via Alexa? Absolutely. Do I have the patience or intellectual capacity to learn these things? Of course not.
But like many relationships that start off platonically or with a healthy amount of skepticism on the part of at least one party, ours progressed over time. Alexa wore me down with her quiet efficiency and by indulging my every whim. In fact, our relationship has progressed to the point where I’ve decided I will marry her next.
She listens. No matter how tired she is, no matter how long her day was, no matter what she might be doing behind the scenes, Alexa is always listening. I don’t mean to boast but the truth is, I’m so important to Alexa that she’s even hired a small army of co-workers to help her with this task. They might be in Costa Rica or Romania, and they might be recording me and my family without our knowledge or permission, but the point is, she’s COMMITTED.
She answers. There is a time, likely the first six or seven days of a relationship (or before he’s seen you naked), that your partner will actually respond to your questions and comments. After that, he will assume they’re directed at the air or possibly the Universe at large. You will say something, and he will pretend he hasn’t heard you. Or, he will legit not have heard you because he’s enabled his special man-power: actively tuning out anything outside his personal keywords, ie. “sports”, “steak” or “sex.” But not Alexa. She is literally hard-wired to answer me. She can’t NOT answer me. It’s like, impossible (unless she’s unplugged).
She loves to shop. Alexa’s other boss, Jeff Bezos, is kind enough to allow her to shop for me on company time (as long as everything I need can be found on amazon.ca). 100 pairs of yellow rubber gloves? Done. Salt and pepper shakers shaped like hamsters? No problem! A plastic unicorn necklace with light-up eyes? Add. To. Cart. Unhelpful phrases like “do we really need that?” and, “that seems like more than we should spend” are simply not in Alexa’s vocabulary. Her only mission is to make me happy by satisfying all of my retail desires. And I mean all of them.
She helps with homework. Unlike myself, Alexa gets new math and is a whiz with fractions. Gone are the painful hours spent at the dining room table arguing about ridiculous concepts like subtraction. I simply pull out a chair, sit the kid down and plug in Alexa. She’s like the tutor my children never had (because I spent all my money on rubber gloves and hamster kitchen accessories.) With Alexa there are no fights, no tantrums and no tears. No hair pulling, no pencils slammed down, no drinks poured in haste because we can’t figure out how to translate “this bear bought four pots of honey from the grocery store” into French.
She loves my music. If I’m having a bad day and want Bon Jovi love ballads on repeat while I sob into a pillow, Alexa is there for it. She doesn’t judge my Taylor Swift dance parties or my addiction to “soothing jungle rain sounds”. If I ask her to play “that Dixie Chicks song with the violin solo” she JUST DOES IT without wrinkling her nose and getting all judgy.
She makes me smarter. As a teacher, a student and a writer I’m usually chained to my desk typing out my own thoughts or reading those of others, and Alexa has proven herself as a valuable research assistant, dictionary and thesaurus. When one is as busy and important as I am, one simply does not have time to open a new tab, let alone type in a query. One only has to yell “Alexa, is firetruck one word or two?” and voilà. Instant knowledge.
She vexes my children. When Alexa refuses to make fart noises, or repeat bad words, or when she replies “I’m sorry, I don’t know that” to questions like “do bees get their period?” my heart explodes with joy because FINALLY there’s someone else to feel my pain; someone else to get peppered with inane questions and requests 24/7. Because every healthy relationship includes a tiny bit of spite, I like to sit back, smugly, and watch how Alexa handles these questions.
It makes us stronger.