Grumpy Alexa, Part Two (We are the Fear-Addicted)

Here’s Grumpy Alexa, Part One.

It was strange. We’d just gotten downstairs and were in the midst of our usual morning dance: dogs dash down the stairs, bladders ready to burst, I carry RH down the steps, who is carrying her panda. Dog breakfast prep. RH wanting me to hold her.

Then Alexa jumps in: “Don’t you want to hear the morning news?”

I freaked out for a minute. Alexa was talking to us without prompting. Was I imagining this? You spend enough time around your house, the walls can talk.

“No, not today, Alexa,” I managed in response.

I thought it would end there. I was wrong.

When RH asked, “What’s wrong, Daddy?” I told her that everything was good and I would make her some granola and fruit.

We were sitting at the table, eating honey almond granola and some blueberries, and Alexa whispered, “Sure you don’t want to hear the news, now?”

I slowly walked over to the machine and dimmed the screen all the way to black. I lowered the volume all the way down. I was hoping to turn Alexa into a clock. I was very close to unplugging Alexa, but I didn’t want to bother with the cord that was hidden behind everything. Too much bending and untangling.

I went back to RH and sat, scrolling through the dark news while she watched Tumble Leaf on the tablet. Yes, the tablet with breakfast. I know, it’s not good. Neither is having no access to preschool or parks or pretty much anything.

For a while, it seemed like we’d survived the demon machine. Wrong again.

When I brushed my teeth that morning, the smaller version of the demon played the addictively disturbing dance-rave-electronica-pop hit, “Firestarter.” I unplugged that machine, but it kept playing the song for an extra 10 seconds, as if using every extra jolt of remaining electricity to carry the song out.

The lyrics kept bouncing through my head, as the early morning turned to late morning. “I’m the fear addicted / a danger illustrated” and how that perfectly encapsulates our present global moment. First Trump then the corona-virus, next massive unemployment and economic disruption, not to mention uncertainty as our only certainty. Please don’t pretend we will go back to “normal,” as if the “normal” way of American life in 2019 and early 2020 was working for us anyway.

We are the fear-addicted. The virus is danger without illustration. Despite the invisible nature of the contagion, we all need images. So science has given us this fittingly bizarre pink-spiked globe. We have this image floating around in our heads for two months.

Image for post
Image for post
A virus illustrated.

Alexa was quiet for the rest of the day, but the idea that Alexa needed me to hear the news and then “Firestarter,” was on repeat in my psyche as we navigated the rest of the waking hours.

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