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OPINION

Hunker Down: Big Brother ain’t the only one listening

By Kesley Colbert Hunker Down

We’ve talked Alexa before. I don’t know how it works. Jesse gave it to me for Father’s Day. It’s some kind of highfalutin technical device that can speak, answer questions and play Loretta Lynn songs on request.

I ask about the weather and she’s got today’s forecast on the tip of her tongue. I want to know the results of the Bears game against the Vikings and she’s a little too quick to say, “You lost again.” Right now I’ve got her playing Tracy Bird’s “Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous.”

Kesley Colbert

But I’m not interested this morning on what she’s “giving out.” I have become concerned with what she’s “taking in.”

Charles and Robert James down at the coffee shop swear this Alexa thing is listening in on all of your conversations. It knows what you are talking about, which political party you are aligned with, what movies you’re watching, how often you call your children, and what you and your wife are ardently discussing at any particular moment.

I near ’bout laughed them under the table.

Undaunted, they held firm. “You can make fun all you want, but that machine is spying on you! It’s collecting data all the time. You are never alone with that thing in your house!”

R. J. and Charlie didn’t know the specifics. At least, they didn’t share any with me. I asked them directly who it was exactly that was “spying” on us - he government, Russia, the AFL-CIO, Amazon Prime…

They demurred.

I was still shaking my head and laughing as I paid up and headed for the door, “You guys are nuts. Certifiably crazy!”

But 10 minutes later I stood in front of Alexa with a little different mindset. Of course, I didn’t say that out loud!

This machine is about the smartest thing I’ve ever been around. It can give you the temperature in Tokyo just as fast as it pronounces the winner of the first Super Bowl. It knows in a split second how many lives have been lost attempting to climb Mt. Everest. It can give you the name of every Triple Crown winner in a heartbeat.

If it can hear, understand and respond to me when I say, “Alexa, play ‘There’s a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere’ by Elton Britt,” then what is keeping this thing from recording EVERYTHING else!

And then a horrible thought raced across my mind. A friend just last week asked me to email him at a yahoo.com address. I did. The very next day I get a Yahoo newsletter on MY email… Somehow all of this stuff IS connected!

I came across a site selling an especially good-looking St. Louis Cardinal’s baseball cap. It didn’t take more than a day-and-a-half before this company showed up on my Facebook trying to sell me that very same hat. Somebody is gathering, sharing and passing around information on us for dead certain positive!

A line from an old Sir Walter Scott poem jumped into my head, “Oh what a tangled web we weave… “

Folks, Charles and Robert James can, at times, be a lot smarter than they look!

 I don’t say Cathy out loud anymore. I refer to her as 004.

We have code names for our children and grandchildren. We take all our phone calls in the bedroom—with a pillow over our heads. We go out to the shed to discuss family business. We bring in the groceries in strict silence, making sure we don’t mention a product by name.

We have designated all Democrats as Chernobyl. Republicans are Three Mile Island. 

004 and I take turns reading “Pilgrim’s Progress” to Alexa. I tell her about the time back in high school when Leon was abducted by aliens. I telling you, that machine leans forward just a smidgen when I describe how Leon was glowing when he showed up two days later.

 We have tuned our TV to “The Beverly Hillbillies” reruns all day long.

I get up close to Alex and throw a baseball into a glove for hours on end. I make popping sounds with my mouth. We’ve stuck an old E. N. Welch Arditi antique clock next to the thing in hopes that the ticking will keep her up all night. 

 And we are constantly, in our outside voices, talking about the plot that Bubba and Earl have hatched up to take over the “Home Shopping Network.” They’re planning on opening up a new line of “holes in the knees” overalls to go along with their patented subversive duck calls. 

In a world of disinformation, everyone needs to do their part…

Respectfully, 

Kes