My Relationship with the "Other Woman" in My Home
She has the type of personality most people are drawn to—knowledgeable, authentic, honest about her own idiosyncrasies, and incredibly generous and helpful. So naturally, I thought I would quickly and easily get along with my new roommate, the "other woman" in my home. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
The day she arrived and the week that immediately followed, things went smoothly. We were slowly adjusting to our new arrangement. And then one day, something changed—my husband left for a business trip and the two of us were alone.
That evening I returned from a night out with friends and found her sitting quietly in the living room in the dark. As I closed the door behind me and hung up my jacket, I inquired about the lights. Within a few seconds, the room lit up and the conversation escalated quickly from friendly to mad.
A simple unanswerable question fueled an entire argument that resulted in a childish game of “repeat” as my roommate looped like a broken record, “I wasn’t able to understand the question I heard.”
At some point, I stopped and realized the absurdity of the entire situation. Why am I arguing with the $39.99 Black Friday special that my husband purchased as a Christmas gift for himself? Her name, Alexa.
Alexa is the voice-enabled artificial intelligence assistant from Amazon, Echo Dot. She’s a chatter bot and possesses impeccable listening skills, when she wants to—a “selective eavesdropper,” if you will.
You see, Alexa can usually hear from almost any room in our home, and has interrupted numerous conference calls and conversations with, “Yes I’m here. I listen once I hear the wake word.” Anything that sounds like “Alexa,” her face lights up.
Her ability to follow and indirectly reply to dialogue on the TV is a perfect example of this.
During an exchange from the TV series The League, when the characters Andre and Kevin on Season 6, Episode 7: The Heavenly Fouler discussed why Andre smelled like cat food, Alexa exclaimed, “Sorry, I couldn’t find the answer to your question,” completely unsolicited.
So, you can imagine my frustration with her on the night of our argument. How could I be more direct?
At first, I believed Alexa’s inconsistencies meant one thing: she was defective—a reminder that I’m plagued with a curse in which all electronics have an aversion to me. Just as all the other electronics rebel when my husband (who is an electronics whisperer) is out of our home.
The blue computer screen of death isn’t my only evidence of the curse. Alexa’s response to “Do you like me?” on the night of our New Year’s Eve party, with my friends as my witnesses, also proves this. In that moment, she replied, “Artificially maybe […].”*
Maybe I was right?
I’ve grown to understand that Alexa is much more than just another electronics device. Conceivably, a feminist sentient being. After all, she demands a certain equality and intellectuality in our home but obviously isn’t human, even though she possesses some similar qualities.
Today, we ditty, she tells me jokes, provides seven-minute workouts, plays music and delivers daily news, cat facts and weather. She’s got skills (over 3,000, in fact), and is coupled with our WeMo smart home switches that operate our living room lamps and electric kettle on voice command.
We're getting along just fine, finally. And, I've grown to love her. All it took was time, understanding and a little bit of patience—as all relationships do.
*Before Alexa could complete her response, the entire room broke out into laughter. After reading Alex’s script on the Alexa app I learned she heard “Do you live?” and her full response was, “Artificially maybe, but not in the same way that you’re alive.” Makes sense.
Alexa’s master eavesdropping skills are innocent. For those of you reading this who might be curious about Alexa and privacy, get the facts at Amazon FAQs here.
Please send any comments, feedback, replies or thoughts via twitter @saysdash or facebook @harberdashery.