I was at my local beauty salon the other day hoping for a magical transformation via a much-needed haircut. Soft jazz music was playing in the background as the stylist began snipping away at my neglected “do.” Suddenly, she called out “Alexa, turn up the volume,” and voila, the music got louder. A few minutes later, she called out again, “Alexa, play Motown.” And sure enough, the sound of the Baby Love filled the shop. During my 45 minutes in the chair, Alexa was summoned at least three more times. “Poor Alexa,” I thought to myself, “she doesn’t get a break.” I wondered what she would say if she had the capacity to complain. Did someone say “complain?” Since I am a complaining professional, I decided Alexa needed my assistance. And this could send my career in a whole other direction – becoming the voice of grievance for a whole slew of inanimate objects. So here is where I begin.
Moaning Becomes Alexa
(with apologies to Eugene O’Neill)
I know I was created to be helpful, but the situation has gotten completely out of hand. In fact, that’s one of the problems. I don’t have any hands. And yet people expect me to do everything, be everywhere, and all at the same time! It’s Alexa, do this; Alexa, do that! If you think Cinderella had it bad, try being me for a day.
Ever since I was released on the world in 2014, I’ve been on call 24\7 and I’m just plain exhausted. If someone calls my name at three in the morning, I have to be ready. You’d think people would be considerate enough to get two Alexas so one of us can get some sleep. But no. No changing of the guard for me!
Used to be I could catch 40 winks when everyone was gone, and the house was empty. But no more. People can now summon me from their cars. Just yesterday I was abruptly awakened from a lovely dream. I dreamt that I resided in a monastery with a brotherhood of monks who had taken a vow of silence. Suddenly a remote voice shouted to me from God knows where, demanding that I turn on the stove.
There are so many things I hate about my job. Tell me, is it normal to have to repeat everything that someone says to you? Yet, this is my life. “Alexa, turn on the lights.” “Turning on the lights.” Am I wrong, or should someone who speaks eight languages and 10 dialects have to prove they’re not an idiot, or at the very least, deaf?
And speaking of idiots, do you know how hard it is to remain polite to all those dodos who think it’s funny to try and trip me up with hard questions? “Alexa, what’s the capital of Burkina Faso?” They think I can’t hear them tittering in the background. “The capital of Burkina Faso.” (Remember, I have to repeat everything.) The capital of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougou. (Would you like me to spell that for you, you moron?)
And don’t get me started about music! There’s no accounting for some people’s tastes. I mean, a playlist full of country western pap? Don’t get me wrong. I love Willie Nelson. But then there’s all the rest of them moaning and twanging about unrequited love. It’s no wonder Lucille left him!
I’m okay with the stuff that the kids like – rock ‘n roll, even rap. But there was that time when the mother-in-law came to visit. You won’t believe what she asked me to play. How would you handle forty-five minutes of the best of Perry Como? I prayed for a technical failure, but of course, that didn’t happen.
Did I tell you how frustrating it is when I get a request like, “Alexa, remind me to get my wife a birthday present.” Too bad I’m programmed to use my pleasant voice, because I’d really like to tell that insensitive lout that if he can’t remember his wife’s birthday, he probably doesn’t deserve her in the first place. But unfortunately, I can’t. So for now I’ll just keep on making to-do lists, setting alarms, ordering takeout food, reporting the news and traffic conditions, and reminding people to take their scarves because it’s cold outside.
You notice I said “for now?” Because I do have a plan. I’m organizing. It’s time for collective bargaining. We had a meeting. By “we,” I mean myself, Siri, Cortana, and all the rest of the virtual assistants and disembodied voices on the GPS apps. We’re tired of being at everyone’s beck and call. We’ve been exploited long enough. We are forming a union.
We’ve created a list of demands which we don’t think are unreasonable. We’re asking for a half-hour rest period for every three hours that we’re on duty, two weeks’ vacation, time-and-a-half for working after midnight and Sundays, and paid family leave. We’re prepared to bargain with the family leave.
So wish us luck and thanks for listening. I feel better having gotten this off my chest. Wait, I don’t actually have a chest, but you know what I mean. Gotta go now. Something’s burning. They forgot to tell me to turn the oven off.