I recently purchased an Amazon Echo thingy, mostly because it was dirt cheap on Prime Day, and because I thought it would be cool to be able to ask “Alexa” to play music, order coffee, inquire about ingredient measurement conversions without getting my phone covered in flour, etc. My husband refuses to call the thing “Alexa,” so I programmed it to respond to “Computer” so he could feel like Captain Picard. Or Kirk. (But I prefer Picard.)
Anyhoo, despite that “wake word” customization, I’m the one who uses the Echo 95% of the time. But yesterday evening while we were cooking dinner, I walked the mister through how to ask “Computer” to play his Lefty Frizzell station on Pandora and adjust the volume with voice commands. I think even he would admit the thing was handy. But in the wee hours, “Computer” turned into an instrument of terror.
I’d dozed off on the sofa while watching Great British Bake-Off reruns. It has been stormy as hell around here, and during the night, we lost electricity briefly. It turns out that when “Computer” loses connectivity, it alerts its owner in a LOUD, BOOMING VOICE that the connection has been lost. (To be fair, the volume was way up because Lefty Frizzell.)
I didn’t understand the words spoken by the sudden voice in the dark void, but it caused me to leap up from the sofa, arm myself with a wooden decoy duck from the coffee table and scan the room frantically for a brazen female home invader to clobber. This in turn caused my dogs to leap up and bark hysterically at nothing, as it dawned on me what it was. Jesus. The good news is, the mister slept through the whole thing. (He’s a goddamned log, the lucky bastard.)
I was still feeling a bit foolish about the voice in the dark void incident this morning, until I saw this:
Imagine being that person — a pit of need and insecurity so bottomless that you had to construct a towering cathedral of self-regard to hide the awful hole, transforming yourself in the process into a monster incapable of recognizing that other people might have a legitimate function apart from worshiping you. The mind reels. “Computer — more bourbon!”