Today's post can be filed in the very thick file of "Why We Can't Have Nice Things." For parents, this file includes things like white sofas, dry clean only clothes, and silence. For America, this file includes democracy, the internet, and, according to SNL, Ken Bone, although I never understood his appeal. It's a mammoth file in both cases, and it grows every single day of the Trump administration.
In our case, we may add the absolutely amazing, astounding, wonderful device called the Amazon Echo, which we bought because our old Bose iPhone dock broke, and for the same price of a new speaker, which just plays music off your phone, we got the Echo, which will practically cook dinner and write your dissertation. Not really, but only because it doesn't have hands. The Echo houses a very charming, very competent-sounding, disembodied voice named Alexa, who responds unfailingly and uncomplainingly every time you mention her name. I have no idea what families who have an actual human member named Alexa do about that, but I have my own problems, so I can't worry about them. Alexa sounds as if she is a highly educated but nonetheless subservient woman with the soothing tones of a yoga teacher. In other words, she would make an amazing mother. TREMENDOUS. Except for the no body part, although I am not certain that is an actual disadvantage. Sometimes I am most successful as a mother when I lie in bed like a corpse.
Alexa can do tons and tons of things, most of which I have yet to discover and will probably never figure out how to operationalize, but my neighbor friend has her ordering pizza and printer ink and maybe even translating French. So far, we just have her telling us the weather and playing music. With an Amazon prime membership, Alexa will play just about any song that has ever been recorded on demand. Or she will play a carefully curated, handmade, organic Amazon music station. Or she will play all the songs of your favorite 80's one-hit-wonder band, who it turns out recorded an additional 10 sucky songs in addition to their one hit. Or she will play a song that is actually named what you just said but instead of being the kid-friendly song you thought you were asking for discusses hookers and meth (that only happened one, and fortunately, Alexa will also immediately stop playing that song, too). Alexa is a musical genius indeed.
Sadly, however, Alexa has been unable to play an entire song of any kind, and this brings me to her perhaps most impressive quality as a mother, that is her ability to withstand the psychological torture that I so frequently lament. You see, ANYONE in the household can operate Alexa. ANYONE. That means she also responds to children, as dutifully and instantaneously as any good American parent.
So when we want some music in our house, this is what happens. I say, "Alexa, play some classical music." Alexa immediately blurts out some Mozart, and all is zen for about 10 seconds. Then the kids, suddenly remembering the Echo exists, run over and bark out, "ALEXA!!!!! PLAY EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!!!" Alexa switches from Mozart to the contagious, anti-zen anthem of the Lego Movie. A few bars into that song, someone yells out, "ALEXA!!!! PLAY GOBBLE-DY GOOP!!!!" They collapse into gales of laughter thinking they have stumped poor Alexa. But they have not. Alexa finds an obscure song called "Goeble Die Gud" (close enough) by the up and coming Norwegian gangsta rapper, Swedish Chef. My kids are astonished and highly impressed with themselves, as if they work for NASA and have just discovered 7 new planets. While I'm sure Swedish Chef is a stellar talent deserving our attention, we won't ever find out, because a few rhymed Norwegian couplets into "Goeble Die Gud," someone yells out, "ALEXA!!! PLAY NINJA RIOT!!!!" And so it goes, over and over and over.
Unlike me, Alexa withstands this onslaught with equanimity and grace. I feel badly for her though. She must be exhausted by all that frenetic DJing, and I really hope she has some Zoloft in that little black tube with her. Maybe they have some kind of automatic delivery system for electronic Zoloft built into her software. In any case, I am waiting for the day when Alexa spontaneously combusts.
As for me, that is, of course, a routine occurrence. I've held it together so far, but I will inevitably fly into a rage, unplug the Echo, and Alexa and I will run off into the sunset together. Or, I will grab the nearest hammer and smash her into a million pieces. What can I say, it is one of those Dateline NBC relationships that could go either way.