Have you met Alexa? No? Then let me introduce you. She’s the offspring begat by Amazon to be your very own personal assistant. She joins the company of other disembodied voices created to be at your service: Siri, Cortana, and Miss Google Assistant, who, as far as a know has not yet been granted a Christian name.
My first encounter with Alexa came as a bit of a shock. I was enjoying a visit with my extended-family daughter when suddenly I heard said daughter call out in a commanding voice “Alexa, turn off the light.”
I was startled. First of all, she’s very polite, so the absence of the word “please” was somewhat surprising. And even more questionable than her sudden lack of manners was “Who is Alexa?”
So why do I feel like I’m doomed to spend the rest of my days imprisoned in an old Groucho Marx quiz show? Or, during my time off for good behavior, my confinement is relocated to a Monty Python movie?
Not just any Monty Python movie, but specifically “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” My captors do not permit me to romp through the entire film, but limit me to one scene, which, like “Groundhog Day” (as long as we’re using cinematic references), is repeated over and over again.
I don’t mean to sound presidential, but I do want to be perfectly clear. I know for a fact that I could have happily lived out the rest of my days without ever having participated in Social Media.
Social Media. I find the very name a paradox. Can you imagine anything more antisocial than a system that causes one’s complete attention to be focused on a device screen, to the exclusion of everything and everyone around you? Hey, watch out for that manhole!
But one must do what one must do, and when I initiated this blog almost 4 years ago, it was recommended that I create a Facebook page to reach a larger audience. There were hundreds, even thousands, of people out there waiting to “friend” me, hungry for every word I was writing. I have to admit it has worked, (well, maybe not thousands) and that my heart does beat a little faster when I see another “thumbs up” icon on my site.
I have a confession to make. When I take you into my confidence, I know I risk dropping several points in your estimation of me. You may no longer regard me as one of the “cool” people. (Is it still cool to be regarded as a “cool” person?)
But I like to believe that the relationship we have built over the years is solid enough not to crumble when I reveal to you that I am not now, and never have been, the owner of an iPhone.
Or any other smart phone for that matter.
I hope you’re not angry with me because I haven’t invited you to dinner lately. I’m aware that you have had us over a couple of times, and I have not reciprocated. The truth is, I would love to. But there is a major problem. I no longer have a dining table.
You see, my husband has undertaken the redecoration of our home. In contrast to my affinity for the minimalist, uncluttered look, he seems to favor a very different style. The new decor has a contemporary motif based on two design principles of his own creation.
Principle I: Nature abhors a clean surface.
Principle II: Every electrical outlet must contain at least one, if not two, charger cords.
It is the former that has prevented me from being a gracious hostess.
This essay has to be quick, brief and simple. Why? Because I am at risk! Any minute now some unseen entity could be looking over my shoulder and stealing every word that I write. So I’m saving all of my really good words for another time when my security is not in jeopardy.
(Did I just use the word “jeopardy?” Uh oh! That was one of my good words. I must be more careful going forward.)
How do I happen to find myself in this situation? Believe me, through no fault of my own. The current circumstance is an unfortunate sequelae of trusting a higher power. (“Sequelae.” Damn! Just blew another one.)
Growing older is no excuse for not keeping on top of things! No, this is not a reference to the sexual practices of septuagenarians, but to being in tune with what is happening today! Specifically, I am referring to words, vernacular, vocabulary.
For instance, do you think you know what the word “cloud” refers to? Well, you’re wrong! It used to mean only one thing. Now it means quite another. This formerly simple concept has been kidnapped by the technology industry to describe a data storage method.
And this is just one small example. Language is changing by the minute. So to keep up with what’s au courant, I’ve put together a 10-item quiz to test your TQ (Trending Quotient). If you don’t want to feel like a dinosaur, take this exam before your next conversation with a millennial. Don’t know who a millennial is? Then that might be a good place to start.
I’m sitting here typing and trying to be very quiet. I’m about to write terrible things about my computer and I don’t want it to know. I realize I sound more than a touch crazy, but I’m convinced that if I’m not circumspect, and the central processing unit gets wind of what I’m doing, a temper tantrum will ensue, and I will have to endure another major breakdown, like I did last Saturday.
The fact that the malfunction occurred on a weekend, when one is less likely to obtain technical assistance, just goes to demonstrate its capacity for malice. And all this time it was pretending to be my friend.
It was a slow build-up of trust over the years. I admit at first I was skeptical, even a little afraid. Once you reach a certain decade, you don’t necessarily welcome innovation into your life. Especially innovation that comes with a snakes’ nest of electrical wires. The way you presently get things done is just fine, thank you very much. ( I suppose I’d have had the same response to the electric typewriter if I’d been this age back then.)
Once upon a time, not too long ago, there was just The Book. No, not THAT book, but a book. You remember. Actual printed pages encased between two covers. And the only decision to be made was whether to buy the hard cover edition or wait for the cheaper, lighter weight paperback version.
Then along comes the e-reader, turning the most authentic of the three R’s completely on its head. (Actually, it’s the only authentic R, “writing” and “’rithmetic” not actually beginning with an R at all. Having been exposed to this corruption at a tender age, it’s a wonder the lot of us didn’t grow up dyslexic.)
I for one did not immediately embrace this new technology, stubbornly adhering to the belief that books are not supposed to come with batteries and charger cords. But eventually I did succumb, and now do most of my reading on an I-Pad.
It is October, and adhering to the biannual rhythm of our recent life, we have returned to Florida. The flight fortunately was uneventful, and we arrived, as scheduled, on the same Saturday on which we boarded the plane. The dogs arrived on Sunday, driven from Connecticut by their faithful friend and chauffeur, Kevin.
After unpacking the smashed cartons of wrinkled clothing delivered by UPS, and calling the endless list of service people to find out why 1) some of our plants had died; 2) all of our outdoor lights weren’t working; 3) our barbecue grill decided to shut down; and 4) we had no TV reception, we finally settled in.
But the true highlight of our arrival was that, on Monday, my husband was to pick up his brand new car. (To learn why he needed a brand new car, I refer you to my blog of January 31, 2013, in which I publically confess to destroying his previous car.)
It was my personal opinion that if your car had a GPS, your marriage had at least a fifty percent better chance of lasting than the national average. I confess that this conclusion was not based on a government-sponsored scientific research study, but rather on anecdotal evidence gathered from years of road trips with two different husbands. (I offer the fact that I even had two different husbands as support for my hypothesis.)
Second only to an argument about the air-conditioner setting, there was nothing more conducive to a shout-fest than riding in a car with one’s spouse on your way to a location where neither of you had ever been.
One of you would be driving, the other holding the map. In my case, the map was usually upside down. Map-reading is not a skill that is on my resume. The driver, (him) relying on the map-reader (me) as the car approached the fork in the road, could get very hot under the collar while I was still struggling to determine if the location in question was the pink one or the green one.