Left to My Own Devices

Mary Ellen and I compete against each other every evening as we watch Jeopardy!  I usually win because she is also playing Sudoku and is only listening to the show. She doesn’t realize the closed captions come up on the screen to reveal the answer before contestants buzz in. So, when I hear a clue like: It’s the highest point in South Dakota, I yell out: “What is Black Elk Peak?” Mary Ellen is impressed and always asks, “How did you know that?” That question would be easier to answer if I were willing to admit to cheating.

There’s more competition in our household. Right now, we have the following electronic devices plugged in: my Amazon Fire, Mary Ellen’s Kindle, my Apple Watch, her Fitbit. Three Alexa Echoes, and two iPhones. Oh, and a landline phone, which I seldom use. But you’d have to pry it from my cold dead hands. I’m old school.

I purchased new hearing aids before the holidays. These are incredible devices that have changed my life, but not always for the better. You see, these devices are intended to interface with other electronic devices, which has caused somewhat of a bidding war for my undivided attention.

When I am jogging, for example, my cell phone might ring. I hear that ring through my hearing aids. But then I must dig the phone out of my sweatpants pocket and select how I want to converse with the caller: over my headset, through my hearing aids, on the speaker or holding the phone to my ear. Here I am moving at a blistering three miles per hour and they expect me to make this decision on the run. Well, it’s not really a run, but still it’s a blistering three miles per hour. I know one thing: whichever option I choose, the phrase “Can you hear me now?” is bound to be said about a half dozen times during the call.

The other night I asked Alexa to play John Legend. My Apple Watch chimed in and said: “Sorry, to hear John Legend you must sign up for Apple Music.”

“I’m not talking to you,” I yelled at my wrist. Then I realized I should watch my tone because all the gadgets in my house are monitoring me. They know my most personal secrets. Best not to disrespect them.

Recently, during a nap, I was awakened when one of my wife’s audio books for her monthly book club starting coming though my hearing aids. No matter what I did, I couldn’t turn the sound off. Later that week, I was the only person at the woman’s book club discussion that hated “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”

Just this past weekend, I asked Alexa what the weather would be like for the coming week. After a brief pause, she said: “I’m sorry, I can’t answer that question while you are driving your car.”

“I am not driving,” I told her. “I am on my treadmill, going at the blistering speed of….”

Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Noblesville Times. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@ aol.com.