Living in an Ethereal Age

As a 72-year old woman, according to conventional thinking, I should not be tech savvy. There is always a startled expression on the face of Best Buy associates when I pose a tech-savvy question. Well, come to think of it, Best Buy clerks have always seemed a bit dismissive of a woman with technical acumen so perhaps the current behavior is just ageism tacked on to misogyny.

Irregardless of their thoughts, I am, slowly but surely, automating my house and it is wonderful. I get a real thrill when I can bend Alexa or Siri to my way. I find myself annoyed that I rely on two apps but they really can do different things.

Alexa, whom I choose to call “Computer,” can turn on my wi-fi controlled coffee maker. I know,  I could put the coffee maker on a timer, I’ve done that. But now, no matter what time I awake, I simply say “Computer, coffee maker on,” and the coffee is fresh by the time I shuffle to the kitchen. The old way, if I awoke at 6 instead of 7, I would shuffle to the kitchen and manually turn on the coffee maker, and wait in the kitchen rather than my comfy bed. How inconvenient is that in the 21st century?

I use Siri to find the spelling and/or meaning of words as I write. Like “misogyny,” back up there in paragraph one. My spell checker had no idea what I was trying to spell so I asked “Hey Siri, how do you spell “misogyny” and she complied. When listening to streaming audio and a song comes along that I can’t identify, I simply ask “Hey Siri, what’s this song?”

“Hang on,” she says with bright confidence, “Let me listen…”

Within a very short while she will return the name of the song, the artist, the album or performance, and any other pertinent information. And you don’t even need to walk her right up to the speaker to hear. Siri has very good hearing.

But honestly, it gets a bit strange and sometimes makes things too easy. I had a four month old puppy for a while (something I do not recommend to other septuagenarians) who had to make late night/early morning visits to the yard, necessitating lights to be turned on and off. I trained Alexa to turn on various lights in the house with a simple phrase, “Computer, dog out.” So, at 4:00 a.m., when the puppy needed to go out, I would issue the command and our way would be illuminated to the outside. When we came back and settled down I would issue the command, “Computer, dog in” and out go the lights. Way too easy. After realizing that stumbling around a semi-lit yard at 4:00 a.m. (or earlier) really wasn’t wise, the pup went back to his breeder. Perhaps if I could have trained him as easily as I have trained Alexa we would still be together.

Embracing technology may not keep me young but it is fun and quite helpful, IMHO. But it adds complexities too. If and when I need to move to an assisted living facility will I be able to find one that can accommodate my automated style of living?  No doubt I will draw the same looks from the ALF facility that I now draw from Best Buy clerks.  But perhaps more haunting, will communicating with a computer lead to a new subset of dementia…computer-onset dementia…where you walk around “conversing” with the Alexas and Siris of the world?

Who knows? For the moment, anyway, I will keep plugging away at finding areas in my life where technology can help and then I will embrace them. ❖

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