Alexa? Can You Hear Me Now? Alexa…Dammit…ALEXA!

So, in about a week or so, my wife Deb and I will celebrate our first anniversary.  Seems strange, because I feel as if I’ve known her forever and loved her at least as long.  And yet the wedding seems like it was yesterday…probably because of all the stuff that we managed to compress into one looooonnnnngggg year–rehabbing her city house (which took significantly longer than that year), putting said house on the market, selling it, moving her to my place, finding another place two hours away, buying it, then moving yet again with all our stuff to another state.  Then all the stuff you gotta do to settle into a new house with all your combined stuff.  And then some minor medical stuff for me.  Sheesh.

Anyway, so our first wedding anniversary is nigh, and we got each other some anniversary gifts.  I gave Deb a beautiful piece of stained glass that now hangs in one of our front windows.  Because I am a nerd, she got me something that plugs in, of course.  An Amazon Echo.

Have you heard of this?  It’s basically a little cylinder with speakers that sits somewhere in your house and can be spoken to, asked questions of, play music, tell you the news and weather and other nifty little things, like starting a shopping list.  It’s, of course, over-priced for what it is, as with all new tech products, but I was delighted to get it and approached opening the box and setting it up with all the zeal of a young boy opening a much-desired Christmas present.

At first, it was delightful.  Set up was stupidly easy and my echo was perched on the kitchen counter and talking to us about weather and answering questions like “Alexa, who’s the president of Argentina?” Fun.

Then, Alexa stopped talking, except, that is, for telling me that she couldn’t connect to my home wi-fi. For no reason that I could tell.  Working one minute, absolutely not working the next.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret about me.  I am calm, fairly Zenlike in most situations.  I am hard to rile, don’t like to lose my temper or raise my voice.  That’s not to say I don’t do either of those things, you understand, it’s just pretty hard to get me going.  I can deal with just about any personality type without losing my cool.  In other words, people usually are incapable of pressing whatever buttons I might have.

Things, though?  Oh, things that don’t work, that don’t do the simple things they were manufactured for?  Oh, that generally takes me to DefCon 1 with startling rapidity.  I can be moved to intense rage by car problems, and computer stuff can send my blood pressure soaring.

So, I spent an infuriating day and night yesterday, trying to get this device to work. I stressed myself out completely, accomplished nothing, except, perhaps, to make my lovely wife, the giver of this gift, feel bad about giving it to me, which was not not goal at all.

This morning, I contacted Amazon again to see what they could do.  I love Amazon, everything about Amazon.  I spend the vast majority of my small amount of expendable income with Amazon.  Deb and I have Amazon Prime (love it), I have about 200 books on the Kindle app on my tablet, we use Subscribe & Save and Fire TV.  And we’ve always had wonderful experiences with Amazon when things turn sour.  In fact, I can state quite equivocally that we’ve never had a negative experience dealing with Amazon customer service.  Never.   In years and years and years of dealing with them.

Anyway, the kindly tech from Amazon, Ben, walked me through some things, then sent me off to speak with the slightly less helpful people at my internet service provider.  And then…Ben called me back about an hour later…called me back as I was packing the Echo back in it’s box since it still wasn’t working, preparatory to sending it back for a refund.  And he walked me through some things that finally…FINALLY got it working.

It sits on the counter now on the kitchen, ready to help, connected to the home wi-fi.  I’m downstairs in the evil lair now, so hopefully when I ascend to begin dinner, it will still be working, ready to answer my every burning question, such as “How many teeth does an ocelot have?”  And “Alexa, play some Alan Parsons.’

Life is good.


About John F.D. Taff

John F.D. Taff is a writer, published author, raconteur and wrangler of angry stoats. He has more than 80 short stories and 7 novels published. He lives in the great, unspoiled vastness of the Midwest. He has a tremendous wife named Debbie, three pugs, Sadie, Tovah and Muriel, and three great kids--Harry, Sam and Molly. View all posts by John F.D. Taff

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