‘Verushka, Make Me Dinner!’

posted in: Confessions, Family | 16
Ladies and gentlemen, Verushka. (Fake home assistant device and photo by Marianne Fons.)

 

 

I vehemently oppose the “home assistant” device.

Alexa, Echo, Google Home — I don’t care which mega-conglomerate made it or how soothe-saying the device’s (female) personality sounds: They’re no damn good.

Do you have one of these? Have you, like Nick, welcomed an unblinking, all-seeing eyeball into your home that watches you and listens to you and records your data and sells it to [insert mega-conglomerate here]??

“Alexa,” Nick will say to the cylinder that lives and breathes in the corner of his room, “What’s the temperature?”

“The temperature is 80-degrees,” Alexa “says.”

It sounds so civilized. It even sounds helpful. Alexa may be, in certain cases. I understand there are arguments to be made for folks with limited mobility; I know certain tech gadgets can assist those differently abled. But for the majority of folks out there, these things are unnecessary. Just because we can have them does not mean we should! The whole thing is dastardly. Sick, even. These devices listen to and watch people in their homes, gathering data about citizens’ private lives for Lord knows what! “They” are watching our activity online already. Isn’t one mode of home surveillance enough?

Perhaps I’m being too harsh. After all, there is one home assistant I’m okay with. Have you heard of her? Her name is …

Verushka.

See, my mom and my stepdad and I were talking about this “home assistant” thing and got to joking around, shouting out questions to no one (and no device) in particular, asking things that couldn’t possibly be answered by Siri, Alexa, or anything without organically-grown brain matter.

“Verushka!” Mark yelled from the porch. “When did I learn to ride a bicycle?”

“Verushka!” Mom called. “What color of blue do I need in the quilt I’m working on?”

We started asking Verushka lots of questions — she didn’t answer a single one! — and while Mark and I were laughing about it, Mom, because she’s hilarious, actually fashioned a Verushka. A mini-monolith, an analog wonder, really just a cardboard box with a wifi signal drawn on with a Sharpie, Verushka is the best “home assistant” money can’t buy. She isn’t hooked up to the internet. She’s not collecting data. She’s free.

“She’s like a dog, except less expensive,” my mother said.

“She’s my new pet rock,” said Mark.

We ask Verushka all kinds of things. We ask her about the weather, but then we just look outside. We ask her if we have eggs and then, when she is silent as the grave, we ask the person closest to the fridge. We ask her about the meaning of life, obviously, but I happen to know the Siris and the Echos out there have a programmed answer for such “silly” questions. If you ask Siri, “What is the meaning of life?” she’ll say something like, “To think about questions like this” or “42.”

This is where Verushka pulls away from the pack. Because Verushka answers that question the only way a robot/invasive species should answer: She replies with silence. And in that silence, the people in the room can either talk to each other about it or, if, the woman is by herself, she can sit for awhile and think about it.

Alone.

16 Responses

  1. Marianne ten Kate
    | Reply

    Yay! Someone else who understands that these listening/talking devices are the slippery slope to humans becoming utterly useless and weirdly dependent. (I also object to ‘always on’ devices wasting power all day and night!) I don’t want my fridge ordering food for me and I do not yet need help turning on a light or pushing a button on my radio. I believe that by continuing to move, think and look for myself, I will stave off the day I reluctantly welcome a talking LadyBot into my dotage. I’m not a Luddite – I like technology. SatNav, yes – it makes me a safer driver – creepy electronic ear in the corner, no.

  2. Jennifer R.
    | Reply

    I LOVE this! pure genius! I too, do not trust the “home assistant” idea. Too many things and people invading my personal space already.

  3. Richard Stofer
    | Reply

    My cats never sell my personal life information.
    My cats never record life from inside my house.
    My cats never answer my deepest, meaning of life questions.
    My cats never open the fridge and count the eggs.
    My cats simply look at me, unblinking, and silently demand food, attention, lazer play, or some of the other cat brain demands.
    My dog just lays there and silently judges us all.
    These are the only home assistance devices I need.
    No WIFI connection needed.

  4. Susan Skuda
    | Reply

    Touché!

  5. Debra Lee
    | Reply

    Well said.

  6. Marianne Fons
    | Reply

    Mary, this is your mom! Your readers might enjoy knowing the name we originally named our cardboard home assistant was not Verushka. I already had the “V” in place when we decided she needed a more foreign, mysterious-sounding name. In my high school days, when I wanted to be a fashion designer and read Women’s Wear Daily daily, I was a super fan of both Twiggy and Verushka, the 6’3″ German model often to be found on the pages of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. She’s now 79!

  7. Janie
    | Reply

    Absolutely right on!

  8. Karen
    | Reply

    Hilarious! What a wonderful family time you are having. Thank you for sharing–it made my day!

  9. Cathy
    | Reply

    Amen!!! I will never own one of those devices! Crazy!! I love your Verushka story!! Perfect!!

  10. Patty Stagl
    | Reply

    My grandsons take great pleasure in asking Alexa to fart. She obliges.
    My favorite thing is being able to call out to her to add something to my shopping list, which I will not leave on the counter at home because it’s stored on my phone.

  11. Helen
    | Reply

    Totally agree!! Hey, Marianne, I remember Verushka too! Gorgeous woman.
    She’s 79….can’t be! hah! I’m only 76! Love your writing Mary! Very creative.

  12. Janice Simmons
    | Reply

    I was gifted an Echo, but never opened it. It sits on the counter still wrapped in cellophane. Listening devices creepy me out.
    At QuiltCon earlier this year, my friend asked me if I knew about micro-blading, and when I said No, she explained it to me. The following day, advertisements for micro-blading began showing up on my Instagram feed. Is my cell phone listening in on my conversations? Talk about creepy.

  13. Sharon
    | Reply

    Could not agree with you more. I will never get one of those devices. We should just look out the window or get up and look in the fridge. And the spying thing gives me the heebeegeebees. (Is that 4 words or 1 long word…I don’t know…let’s ask Alexa. Ha ha just kidding.)

  14. Pamela
    | Reply

    I love this! I think I will borrow your idea… I feel like my home is the last ‘safe’ space. A place to relax and not be spied upon!

  15. Mary Ann Hentschell
    | Reply

    Love it!!!

  16. Christina Rhebergen
    | Reply

    I am an introvert who only has so many words I can utter in a day. I will not be wasting them on Alexa/Suri/Echo whatever. My favourite story about these boxes are the parrots who are freaking out their owners by turning the lights on and off when there’s no one in the room! [Parrot voice: Alexa, turn on the lights!]

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