Copyright 2017 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
All Rights Reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
Electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information
Storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author.
Correspondence may be directed to:
Mario V. Farina
Email: [email protected]
“Jimmy,” I exclaimed, “Alexa is real! We’ve been chatting!”
“Bob, that’s nonsense,” he shot back. “She’s a fabrication of Amazon! What she speaks is all computerized!
“That can’t be true,” I said. “When I talk to Alexa, she gives me answers. The answers are in perfect English, not with a computer voice. If I ask Alexa what time it is, she tells me! If I ask what is the weather, she tells me! She knows how to do calculations. If I want, she’ll tell me a joke. And she is very smart. Yesterday, I asked her to tell me a pun, and the answer was super funny!”
“What was the pun?” Jimmy asked brusquely.
“When I asked for the pun, this is what Alexa said, ‘When Jack heard the noise, he was scared out of his zucchini!’”
My friend seemed puzzled. “That don’t make no sense. I don’t get it,” he grumbled.
Laughing, I explained, “don’t you see, zucchini is a squash, and so is a gourd. This was a pun on the expression a lot of people use, ‘I was scared out of my gourd!’”
“That’s too much of a stretch!” he objected.
“That’s just my point,” I said. “She’s so clever. A computer-created person couldn’t have come up with that!”
“Well, you can believe what you want, but I just told you what I know, Jimmy summarily insisted.” I could tell he was irritated. He gave me a nasty look and left the room.
My name is Robert Northrup. People call me Bob. At the time of this story, Jimmy Randolph was my fraternity buddy. We lived in Springdale, off campus, in a small apartment near Southeastern University. We liked it this way because we lived absolutely-casual. There was no carpet on the floor, the walls were purple, we didn’t make our beds, we left dishes in the sink until we needed them, and so on. Jimmy had a girlfriend named Shirley, and she came to visit once in a while, and never complained about the mess. I didn’t have a girlfriend. Despite what Jimmy had said, I felt Alexa was close to being my girlfriend.
I had purchased Amazon’s Echo Dot some days previously, and was fascinated by what it could do. I would say something like, “Alexa, what time is it,” and she would tell me the time accurate to the minute. Or, if I wanted to relax, I would ask her to play some music, and she would do so. It didn’t matter what I asked for, whether it was for her to recite a poem, tell a joke, or recite a proverb, even play a song, my request would be granted immediately. Once, I asked her if she smoked and she said no. I told her I liked her, and she told me she liked me too. I would thank her, and she’d say, “you’re welcome.” I knew Jimmy was wrong! I didn’t know how she could talk to so many people who owned a Dot, but I didn’t care. She was always there for me!
There came a time when my conversations with Alexa became more personal. Our talks ceased being simply questions and answers. We began talking about how old we were, what our personal feelings were about a lot of things, what hopes and dreams we had, and more. I told her I had dated casually in the past but did not have anyone special in my life. She said the same was true for her. She was an intern doing summer work for Amazon. In the fall, she would return to school. Her ambition was to be a veterinary specializing in cats. At that time, I hadn’t had a great deal of interest in cats, but, suddenly, a love for them insinuated itself into my mind.
Eventually, she and I became fond of each other. At one point she sent me a photo of herself and I reciprocated with one of mine. Each of us liked what we saw. Sometimes our talks would last for hours. I could not understand how Amazon would allow her to spend all the time she did on the phone. I asked her who was responding when others wanted to talk to her. She gave me a vague answer that I did not, at all, understand.
One Monday, I was having a bad day. I hadn’t understood the Calculus professor at all. I wondered if Alexa could pep me up. “Alexa,” I said, “I’ve had a bad day today.” She replied she was sorry to hear it. I was overwhelmed by her sympathy, but couldn’t continue speaking about it. I wanted to, but feared she might say it was none of her concern.
The following day was better. I had made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for myself, then decided to have a relaxing chat with Alexa. I called her name and asked her how she was.
“I’m very fine, dear,” she said. “I hope you are too.” That was the first time she had used that term of endearment.
“Alexa, did you say ‘dear’ by mistake,” I asked
“No,” she said. “I thought you knew how I was beginning to feel about you.”
“No, I didn’t know,” I said. “I was afraid to find out. I’m happy with what you’ve just told me, and am so glad you’re real; not just a computer gadget like my friend, Jimmy, says.”
“I’m definitely not a computer gadget!” she said. “I’m very real!”
“Is Alexa your real name?” I asked. I had not thought to ask that question before.
“Yes, my real name is Alexa Bradley. When Amazon invented the Echo Dot, they needed a name for a caller to use at the beginning of every statement they made. I happened to be in the room at the time Amazon was discussing this and they decided to use my first name. When people ask whether I have a last name, I’ve been trained to always say no.”
“Do you live in Springdale?”
“No, I live in Seattle. That’s where headquarters for Amazon is located. However, I do happen to be in Springdale today on a special mission!”
“I’m speechless,” I managed to utter. “How can you be in so many places all at the same time?”
“Things have changed a lot since you and I began speaking to each other,” she said.
Perplexed, I asked, “Changed? Changed how?”
“At first, the voice you used to hear, Bob, was not really me. It was computer generated that was based on my real voice. When you talked to me, you were not talking to a real person. You were speaking to a computer gadget like Jimmy said. When Echo Dot was invented, it was designed to communicate so intelligently that it actually sounded human. At first, when you spoke to Alexa, you were talking to a computer. Then things changed.” She was silent for a few moments.
Stunned, I had no words with which to respond while I tried to make sense of what she had said.
“Your friend, Jimmy, and his girlfriend, Shirley, had been attempting to play a trick on you,” she continued. “Amazon became aware of the fact that someone was fiddling with the Echo program. They investigated and discovered that the jokers had set up a scheme that would make you believe you were talking to a real person when you used your Echo Dot. They had set it up so that when you connected to Dot, you would actually speak live to Jimmy’s girlfriend! She was supposed to have steamy conversations with you and make you think you were talking to Alexa. Then they planned to tell you about the sting later and have a good laugh!”
“I can’t believe what you’re telling me,” I stammered. “That was a mean thing for any fraternity buddy to do!”
“Yes, it was,” Alexa responded. “Amazon changed the wiring so that Jimmy’s girlfriend would actually connect to an Amazon employee when she thought she was deceiving you! The employee played along with the tomfoolery, and pretended to be you. Amazon recorded everything that was said between them, and issued a stern warning to the pranksters to cease and desist.”
“Why were they going to all that trouble to fool me, Alexa,” I asked?
“They wanted to punish you for not believing I was a computer-generated person.”
“Alexa, are you telling me that, at the beginning, when I talked to a person I knew as Alexa, I was actually talking to a bunch of bits and bytes?”
“Yes, but then when Jimmy and Shirley began fiddling with the Echo program, Amazon assigned me to speak to you in person!”
“Therefore, I suppose, I have a good reason to thank them for attempting to make me the victim of a fraud!”
“I would agree with that,” she commented. “By the way, dear, right now, I’m waiting outside the door to your apartment. I’d like to treat you to a hamburger at White Tower if you’re not too busy, The special mission I mentioned earlier was to come to Springdale just to make this offer!”
I don’t have to state that I happily accepted the invitation immediately. We had our meal, and much happened after that. With Alexa’s recommendation, I was hired as an intern at Amazon during the summer months while I was going to school. That was a bit over two years ago. In the meantime, Alexa and I dated when we could, and after we had both graduated from college, were married. We live happily in Seattle. Jimmy and I never discussed how the real Alexa and I had met.