Opinion: Left to my own ‘devices’


Mary Ellen and I compete against each other every evening as we watch “Jeopardy!” I usually win because she is also playing sudoku and is only listening to the show. She doesn’t realize the closed-caption answers come up on the screen. When I hear a clue like, “It’s the highest point in South Dakota,” I yell out, “What is Black Elk Peak?” Mary Ellen is impressed and asks, “How did you know that?” Her question would be easier to answer if I were willing to admit to cheating.

There’s more competition in our household. We have the following electronic devices plugged in: My Amazon Fire, Mary Ellen’s Kindle, my Apple Watch, her Fitbit, three Alexa Echoes and two iPhones.  Oh, and a landline phone, which I seldom use. But you’d have to pry it from my cold, dead hands. I’m old school.

I purchased new hearing aids before the holidays. These incredible devices have changed my life, but not always for the better. They’re intended to interface with other electronic devices, which has caused a bidding war for my undivided attention.

When I’m jogging, for example, my cellphone might ring. I hear that ring through my hearing aids. After I dig the phone out of my sweatpants pocket, I select how I want to take the call: over my headset, through my hearing aids, on the speaker or holding the phone to my ear. Here I am, moving at a blistering 3 mph, and I’m expected to make this decision on the run? Well, it’s not really a run, but still, it’s a blistering 3 mph. I know one thing: Whichever option I choose, the phrase, “Can you hear me now?” is bound to be said a dozen times during the call.

The other night I asked Alexa to play John Legend. My Apple Watch chimed in and said, “Sorry, to hear John Legend you must sign up for Apple Music.”

“I’m not talking to you,” I yelled at my wrist. Then I realized I should watch my tone because all the gadgets in my house are monitoring me. They know my most personal secrets. Best not to disrespect them.

Recently, one of my wife’s audio books for her monthly book club started coming though my hearing aids, and I couldn’t turn the sound off. I was doing the dishes, so I just kept listening. Later that week, I was the only person at the ladies’ book club who hated “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”

 Yesterday, I asked Alexa what the weather would be like for the next week. She said, “I’m sorry, I can’t answer that question while you are driving.”

“I am not driving,” I hollered. “I am on my treadmill, going at the blistering speed of….”