I have a pet peeve that’s decidedly rooted in Our Modern Times.
I really hate how bossy we all are with our various devices.
I know that this is irrational. I know that even if Siri’s answers to goofy questions can be comically charming, “she” is an inanimate object. And yet the necessity of please, thank you, and you’re welcome are so ingrained in me that I wince whenever I hear the void that signals their absence.
It’s funny, because Cute W is an early adopter of voice-activated interactions. He’s been whipping out his phone and asking Google for answers in the middle of party chit-chat for years. In one case, he was asking Google about some British slang term and Google came up empty until he repeated the term in a faux British accent and Google suddenly “understood” and answered him. Sadly, he took this triumph as clear evidence that he’s good at speaking with a British accent. Oh, Google, please don’t encourage him! I kid. He is pretty adorable even while melding Cockney with Irish.
Anyway, when Grandma came to visit, she introduced M to using “OK Google,” which basically makes your phone switch into voice activation mode. She’s been quizzing her phone ever since. That is, when she’s not crossing her eyes and grimacing to send yet another Snapchat. I mean, the girl has streaks to maintain.
Anyway, the latest inanimate-voice-activated-object member of our family is the Amazon Echo, who is named Alexa. I was unaware of the existence of such a product, but apparently there was some sort of irresistible bargain. And “she” is handy. You can call out, “Alexa, turn on WAMC” or “Alexa, what’s the weather forecast for this Saturday?” or “Alexa, what’s the capital of Montana?” and she will hook you up. I just went in to chat some more, and Alexa could tell me when Prince died and then queue up one of his songs for me and then switched to the news when I asked about the latest headlines. It is fun. My family’s been demanding answers and assistance from her for days now. But they never say please. She doesn’t mind. But I do. I would like it if we were all required to say please. I wondered if saying please would screw her up, and it doesn’t. But when I said “Thank you,” she didn’t say anything back.
I just got up and experimented again. It occurred to me that when I had said “thank you” before, what I really should have said was, “Alexa, thank you.” So I gave it a try. I asked Alexa to play some music, and she answered that she would and turned on the tunes. Then I said, “Alexa, thank you.” The music got softer, there was a hesitation, and she answered again about the music that was playing. It was neutral, but honestly? It seemed like repeating herself like that was a little passive aggressive. It was disheartening.
I decided to try again. “Alexa, thank you,” I repeated. The music got a bit softer, and this time she answered, “That’s what I’m here for.”
That’s better, Alexa. Thank you.