My Personal Side

By Craig Hastings
What’s happening to me?  I’m from the old school of get up and do it yourself. When I was growing up and well after, at least as I got older, which doesn’t mean I grew up much but, my generation had to pick things up, turn things on, tune our radios, etc.  I’ve told myself through the years as I’ve watched more and more electronic remote devices hit the market that I wasn’t going to be that person.  I was going to resist.  I’m failing. Thinking back, the first thing I remember operating by remote activation was a garage door.  Well of course I was going to use a remote to open and close the garage door right? Even though I opened and closed the garage door by lifting it manually at the family’s home in Hillcrest during the 60’s without complaint. 

I defended my laziness with the very words from the operating manual.  “Enter and exit your garage safely from the security of staying inside your car.” For me that was a lie I told myself.  I surely wasn’t all of sudden afraid to get out of my car in my driveway after dark in the Hillcrest subdivision.  If I admitted this to anyone I would be peeling away some of my macho maleness that in my 20’s I was trying to maintain and build not give it away.  As luck would have it, the last owner of this house, my first house, had installed remote control garage doors before I bought the house.  Now it was a simple explanation; “The doors were here when I bought it.”  I have no explanation for why I replaced both motors with new motors as they failed years later. Oops. 

The next remote apparatus I remember purchasing were several, more than several, remote controlled cars and trucks.  I’m not talking about the remote controls for racecar tracks and electric trains because they weren’t actually remotes in the sense I’m talking about tonight.  After all, they were still connected by wire with electric current running through them.  Cool at the time but, not radio waves traveling through space.  However, thinking about it now, my first couple of “remote” controlled toy vehicles did indeed have a wire requiring the user to walk behind them. 

My next break through remote controlled purchase was a remote controlled helicopter.  Everyone had one.  Most of them weren’t much bigger than a dinner plate but, I went to a couple of open-air events where the real professionals were flying these things high and fast.  The ones I had could be taken out of flight if the wind outside picked up enough to blow leaves around.  Then they would crash land and break the rotors off.  Junk.  I had more fun with a kite on a string. 

Next, and at the time, a life changing invention became available on some popular automobiles as long as the vehicle had an automatic transmission.  Remote start with a run time of fifteen minutes. Why was I so excited about this new device? After all, I was parking my car in my garage at night using my remote control for my garage door right?  I remember well running outside in the dead of winter in the morning to start my car before school.  I just had to have this remote start device for my police car parked outside my house every night.  So much so I purchased the first one myself just in case it didn’t last very long and therefore a waste of money.  Probably the reason I still remember running outside and starting my car in High School was because I was still doing it twenty years later. 

Today this is almost necessary.  There are a few in car electronic devices such as the in car computers that will not work or work properly until they are warmed up and I don’t mean by simply giving them some time after they have been turned on. I’ve not ever had one of these aftermarket remote start devices fail either.  Of course today remote start for most cars has been an option for years available right from the manufacturer. 

But I have two devices in my house that have guilted me into writing this story tonight.  The first is a remote that controls three lights in my bedroom and an air machine too.  I have the remote for these on my nightstand and my lazy butt uses nothing else but the remote control to turn all of them off and on.  Sad.  I’m embarrassed to admit this.  And finally, this one beats them all.  I purchased an “Alexa”.  This is the device a person can talk to as though Alexa is your own personal assistant.  It wasn’t until after I purchased “her” that I started reading and hearing about how she could be spying on me by listening to everything that everyone in my house is saying.  I’m not worried though because it would be a narrative of boring on top of boring.  No secret squirrel stuff being talked about in my house.  I will say this though.  I wouldn’t do a wifi camera device in my house. All of my fears came to light just this past week too.  Did all of you see the story about the “Ring” camera installed in a young child’s bedroom?  If you didn’t; the device was hacked by a pervert. The young girl is scared to sleep in her own bedroom now.  I have these “Ring” doorbell cameras outside my house but never would I put them inside. 

I talk to “Alexa” like she’s a real person.  I ask her about the weather frequently, the time, the definition of many words, to connect to my phone so I can play my music (like now), and to play random music. Early each evening in December if no one is watching the TV in the room she sits, I say to her; “Alexa”, play Christmas music.”  She tells me what source she has selected the music from and Christmas music from all eras plays until I tell her to stop.  If I need the volume up or down; “Alexa”, volume up/down and she takes care of it herself.  No need for me to walk any extra steps out of my way.  I’m a no lyrics soft piano music guy so the other eleven months of the year, if you were to walk into my house late in the evening you would hear which songs “Alexa” has chosen for me on that particular evening. 

The sad part about all of these remotes is this; if my health was such that I needed remote controls to help me accomplish my day-to-day activities, then, well, okay. That’s not the case though.  I’m just using them because I’m lazy.  I don’t like this about myself much but, what do I do about it?  I’ve spoiled myself.  I’m done now so…”Alexa,” disconnect from Craig’s iPhone.” Lol.  

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