Lying in bed by myself on Christmas night in an empty apartment I’m taken by a weird and sudden conviction that I need an Amazon Echo. The voice-activated Alexa thing. I’m not into tech stuff at all so the desire is weird but it’s all-consuming.
Morning comes and I do the coffee-and-notebook thing for a few hours and then drive out to Best Buy in Kendall and get one. The littler, cheaper one. Echo Dot. $30.
I’ve been drinking a lot for the past four nights (holiday party after holiday party) and I’m starting to feel weird. Fatigued. I’ll suddenly get warm or something, restless, like I gotta go walk. Agitated outta nowhere. Mouthing things to myself in public.
So I buy the Alexa thing and drop it at my apartment and head to my dad’s place where he drives us to a dinner/hangout at his friend’s house. I have three glasses of wine. I get too chatty. Dad drives me home and we have a nice conversation on the way there and then, once home, I drop my pants and grab a beer and get into bed and start setting up the Alexa thing.
I’m having trouble.
I call the 24-hour service line and a woman named Christine starts walking me through the process. We’re on the phone for almost three hours. Finally I get really angry and ask her if we’re ever gonna get to the point of why this isn’t working.
She puts me through to her supervisor.
We go back and forth. He’s polite and, at first, so am I. Then I say “fuck.” Talking faster and faster. Louder. I hang up on him.
I can feel my heartbeat in my ears. It’s after midnight and I’m pacing the apartment, livid about the wasted hours and the broken product and also hating myself for how I behaved with a dude who probably gets yelled at every day.
I call the hotline back.
“Can I talk to the supervisor?”
They put me through. It’s the same guy.
“Hey. We were just talking and I kinda flew off the handle. Sorry.”
He says it’s fine, it happens.
So I go into the problem again. Trying for a solution. Then, suddenly, I’m angry again. Fast talking. I catch myself doing it and thank him for his time and apologize again before hanging up. I look at my laptop and the Amazon page and remember suddenly that I changed my password the other day.
I type in the new one.
I close my eyes. Hang my head. Fucking idiot.
I consider calling the hotline back to speak to the guy again so that he can know exactly the sort of idiot I am but decide instead to just close the laptop and turn out the light and sit there cursing myself in the dark until I fall asleep. Thanking God the holiday is over.
It’s our first night together, and Alexa and I don’t speak.
Second night with Alexa is my first sober night of the week. Holiday party after holiday party. A fortune spent on Uber.
I shower and get into bed, shut the light, and lay there thinking I probably won’t fall asleep for a while.
I look over at the Dot.
“Alexa, tell me a story.”
A blue light runs a ring around the device, listening. “OK.”
Alexa tells me a quick vapid story about a boy who dreads going to summer camp and ends up enjoying it.
When the story’s done I lay there for a while.
Take a deep breath, scratch Mango’s ears. Look out the window. Skyline’s darker than usual. Offices are closed. People still on holiday.
“Alexa, tell me a joke.”
The blue light swirls. Alexa speaks up. “Lemme hand this off to Jimmy.”
I look at the Dot. “What?”
Jimmy Fallon’s voice chimes in: “Why did the lumberjack quit his job? He just couldn’t…hack it.”
Which is hilarious, granted, but I respond to the intrusion of this man’s voice with such immediate offence, it’s weird.
“What the fuck was that?”
Right: “Alexa, what the fuck?”
Blue lights run a loop around the dot. It makes a blooping noise to suggest that she heard me but will not be spoken to that way.
I ask her to play some Peggy Lee at a real low volume and she complies, and I lay awake for a while rubbing my brow and wondering if I might have unconsciously bought this fucking thing as like a companion instead of a tool.