Parenting, Uncategorized

Smart Like Rainman


round robot vacuum
Photo by Jens Mahnke on

Just wait. It’s plotting how to vacuum up your feet. 


Smart homes have many great features. You can turn the temperature in the house down without having to get out of bed, you can get into an Amazon music battle with your spouse from across town, or you can turn the lights off when you’ve realized that in the chaos of herding the kids out of the house you left the lights on.


The future is here. Kind of.


From the examples above you can tell that smart homes are great. That is assuming that your smart home is actually smart. See, our smart home is smart. Kind of. Like it’s smart in the same way that Rainman was smart. If you drop a box of toothpicks and need to know how many toothpicks fell on the floor—BAM! Smart!


If you need a smart home that will randomly reset the temperature to Saharan levels, our house is a genius! OH! Or if you need an Echo that will randomly start playing music from another room, GENIUS! Or you want an Echo that responds to words on TV that it THINKS sounds like “Alexa” our house is MENSA.


The fact is our house is truly an illustration of smart homes gone wrong. It all started last year when we stayed at my sister’s house. She had an Amazon Echo and my husband and I fell in love with it. The sound on the speaker was nice, and we loved being able to say, “Alexa, set timer for three minutes” for easy time-out timers for the kids. Yep, I’m that kind of parent. So we bought an Echo.


From that single Echo purchase we added another Echo, a Dot, and a Nest thermostat. I’m not sure where the breakdown occurred, but somewhere between the wonder of the Echo and the Nest our house started to function like a good robot gone bad. Take for instance the other day, I was in the living room and said,  “Alexa, lights on!” And she responded, “Here’s some music I think you’d like.”


So again, I said, with clear enunciation, “ALEXA, lights on!”  This time she responded, “I don’t know that.” And started to play the music she insisted I would like. I didn’t.  I was starting to get annoyed, standing in my dark house. So I said, with a tone of frustration, “ALEXA. LIGHTS. ON!” And that time she just dinged at me. It was the robot equivalent of the middle finger. I ended up having to text my husband, “Can you please turn the lights on in the house? Alexa is being a jerk.”


It’s a constant battle with Alexa to get her to do what you want. “Alexa, play classical music.” Simple command, right? Wrong. She could easily turn that command into a five-minute argument about what the weather is. OH! Speaking of weather, she lies, just like a weatherman. WHILE raining outside, you could ask her what the weather is for the day, and she’d flat out lie to you, “Today, expect a high of 65, sunny, with a 0% chance of rain.” LIAR!!!!


The Echo isn’t the only smart device that’s gone full Rainman. Nope, we also have our Nest. You know, the “smart” thermostat that’s supposed to “learn” the heating and cooling preferences and eventually come up with an energy efficient schedule? Yeah. Don’t believe it. Our Nest has decided that we like our house to be only two temperatures: Surface of the sun or Antarctic Expedition to Find Penguins.


We have done what it says to bypass these issues, but here’s the problem with “smart” technology, it thinks it’s smarter than us humans. So even if you do something to fix it, it basically goes, “Stupid human, you don’t mean that. You need it to be 34 degrees in your home. It’s 28 outside, so it’s warmer inside. Be happy.”


Basically, smart homes are really an exercise in self-control, because the desire to defenestrate the little gadgets is real.



I should note, that as I’m reading this to my husband, I keep having to spell out Alexa’s name, or say, “YOU KNOW WHO” because saying Alexa out loud would make her think that I want her to do something, And, I don’t really want her to know that I’m talking about her. Next thing you know, she might start playing Baby Shark nonstop, and we can’t have that.



Do you have a smart home? Is yours temperamental like ours?


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