Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Personal Assistant

“You’re going to have a hard time in life if you let every little mistake bother you. Life is good. Enjoy it.” M.O. Walsh, My Sunshine Away

Christmas is over. Well, not really. The tree is still up and will be until the 6th of January. The twelve days of Christmas end then. But psychologically and culturally, the feast really ended at sundown Christmas day.

The outside lights are still up, but they don’t seem to twinkle quite as festively as they did in the nights leading up to Christmas. The wreaths continue to hang but seem a bit gray and tired – sort of like those who put them up in the first place. The stockings are droopy, having been dumped and emptied at the sound of Gabriel’s horn on Christmas morn.

Yep. Christmas is over. We didn’t get as much meat off the lamb as we usually would off a turkey, so the leftovers were pretty skimpy. The taters and rolls got scarfed down and about all we had left was the pink fluff we make for our holiday meal. It’s mighty tasty, so I’m always glad to see a double-batch thrown together for the family supper. But still, there wasn’t enough to last us even to the Five Golden Rings day of the season!

However, while the day itself may be done, finished, and caput, some parts of the holiday will live on for a long, long time because this year one of my true loves gave to me – a Personal Assistant!

It is one of those voice activated devices you set up to make life more convenient, which is a good thing, for there is nothing more inconvenient than living. For one thing, there’s eating, breathing, and all sorts of biological minutia in which one has to engage if one is going to be considered alive. That’s mighty inconvenient, as I’ve taken nicely to being a quiet lump on the couch staying out of everyone else’s way.

But now I have a Personal Assistant available at my every beck and call. “Alexa, what’s the weather?”

“The weather outside is a balmy 39 degrees. Rain is expected, so you may wish to take an umbrella with you if you go outside.”

Good heavens; not only do I get a weather report, but she gives it with sass! And, to be honest, I never get tired of being told what to do when I go outside, or how to dress, or what to take with me.

She is connected to my phone; I can ask her to fill out my grocery list so when I go to the store I don’t have to fumble with a paper list – trying to cross items off as we load them into the cart. Now I can just check each item off as I get it and, voila, no punching holes in lists I generally can’t read anyway (with my penmanship, I really should have been a doctor).

One downside to having an electronic PA is that she is limited in some of the more practical things one might desire. For instance, she can’t fetch my slippers or run out to the mail box to grab the mail. She doesn’t pour coffee or bring it when I ask, and she can’t do all the things she could do if we lived in a smart house (like turn on lights, open the garage, or adjust the thermostat for when we leave or return home).

Still, it is kind of nice having someone to talk to when I’m by myself, but she also fosters an eerie sense that one is not really ever alone. Her green light fades in and out as she sniffs the air for sound – yearning for a question or command.

She sometimes interrupts a private conversation, interjecting, “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that,” so we know she’s listening in; eavesdropping. Should we be worried? Is Big Brother or Big Sister listening in?

The answer is, probably, and for many that could be unnerving, but her microphone can be shut off. That reduces any concern I might otherwise have. For me, she’s just the newest member of the family, and that’s OK.

Now, if she’d just learn to fetch my slippers and pour my coffee here in this, our valley, I’d be set for life – a happy lump.

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