I was just thinking…. Stop the world, I want to get off

about how life has zoomed on by me. Earlier this week I was setting in a back room, happily and peacefully reading a book, when I heard a “ping” sound. Was it the doorbell? Then I thought, no, the doorbell is more like “ding-a-ling, ding-a-ling.” So it’s probably my phone, that loud, clear ping sound of a text received. Then I heard it again: “ping.”

I checked my phone but it wasn’t a text, nor an appointment reminder, which is like a “breeeeet” sound, or, perhaps “bringggg” or “zzzrrrttt.” It might have been the washing machine’s “dong” sound, repeated every few minutes until you come pay attention to your finished wash. And it didn’t sound like the dish washer’s “I’m done” notice, which is more of a “clang” or “kadingdong”…no, more like “kaboinkgang”…nor does it sound like the land line phone, which is a “bringggg, bringggg, bringggg.” And the microwave done tone is more like an old cash register: “ka-ching, ka-ching.” I was perplexed, confused by all the newfangled digital sounds.

I am, evidently, ring-tone challenged. It doesn’t help that I suffer from tinnitus, an incurable malady where you sense a constant ringing or screeching in your ears–some say it’s like a miniature dentist has set up shop in your ear canal and is constantly operating a high speed drill: zzzzzzzzziiiiinnnnnnggggg. Others describe it like a Cicada mating in your ear, or perhaps a tea kettle blowing its top.

Mine is all of the above, kind of a screezzinchgrisroaring sound, like someone stepping on the neck of an owl. Plus, I’m getting a little hard of hearing……..What did you say?

When I left the room to double check all my electrical devices and their auditory attempts to tell me something about their operation, I was surprised to see a robot outside the front door with “Text Patrol” stenciled on its chest plate. So it was my doorbell after all, by golly and by gee.

“Hello” I said as I opened the door, spreading my fingers apart Vulcan-like as Spock might do in greeting an android. “Greetings from Earth.” In a tinny, metallic voice, it replied it was with the Amalgamated Council For the Texting and Tweeting Consortium, whatever the hey that is, and had received complaints that I had not responded, either soon enough or not at all, to many, many tweets and texts. It said this was rude behavior and might subject me to loss of social media privileges.

“Well, fine” I quickly replied. “Take them away, by all means. Do me a favor. I hate social media. Give me back my life.” This shocked, and, evidently dismayed it. It started punching out code into a weird looking gizmo affixed to its robotic arm, then said “I’ve just changed your ‘Ping’ ring tone to the sound of an airplane crashing into your house: whining engines, screaming passengers, twisted carnage. You’ll soon apologize and come begging for the return of that beautiful ping sound. You’ll start answering your texts and tweets. Just wait and see.” Wow. A robot with an attitude.

Then it’s arms folded out and upwards 90 degrees, its fingers spread out flat in a perfect circle, then, whoosh, it shot up straight up into the sky and disappeared. HOLY HOLYOKE, ROCKEY. What is going on? Where and when did this weird stuff all come about? Am I out of it or what? When did I go from a dude to a dud? From a happening-with-it kind of guy to a hapless-past-it kind of guy?

Later that same day, still shook up from digital alerts overload, I read about Amazon’s Alexa, a voice activated assistant built into the Echo speaker. It sits anywhere in your house and activates immediately upon hearing its name “Alexa.” When activated, it answers your questions, even order goods from the vast Amazon catalog in the cloud. Since Alexa is the 39th most popular girl’s name, this has caused some amusing problem.

The article talked of a six-year-old child who walked up to Alexa and said” Alexa can you play dollhouse with me? Can you get me a dollhouse?” Within two days, a $150 KidKraft Sparkle Mansion showed up on the doorsteps. This story caught the media’s attention. The little girl wound up on “Good Morning America” and explained to anchor Robin Roberts “I told Alexa to order me a dollhouse and some cookies.” According to the story, Amazon’s voice sensitive gizmos lit up all around the nation, evidently picking up on the six year old’s repetition of the request to Alexa, in houses where the television was on. The shares of KidKraft Sparkle Mansion shot through the roof overnight on a startling surge in sales.

Supposedly Amazon’s going to work on Alexa’s “voice biometrics” to differentiate between someone talking in the house versus television or radio chatter. How about working on voice biometrics for all our electronic devices, like “Mike, Abe Lincoln just texted you” or “Mike, the dishes are done and Becky wants you to put them away for a change” or “Mike, the fudge is done but your medical profile tells me this stuff is killing you. It’s your life kiddo, but I’m just saying….” or “Mike, this is just your tinnitus you’re hearing and not an electronic device.” You know good stuff like that. Because I’m telling you, things are changing too fast, and I’m about ready to ask the world to let me off on the next turn because…because…HEY!!! What in the world is that sound!!!!…oh no, oh no…I think an airplane is about to crash into my house. OH NO!!! Alexa call the ambulance, FAA, anyone…Alexa, help. ALEXA….

mike carroll