My Smart House
by Earnest Prankheimer
I was one of fortune’s few selected to Beta test the new SmartHouse [TM] by HomeTech. There are radio frequency chips (RFIDs) in everything from the refrigerator to the house plants, communicating data to the central computer. It’s all monitored and calibrated to my needs and desires. I had signed the contract to stay in the house rent-free for six months. Each of us was also presented with a new Apple Smart Watch by the HomeTech people, which was really nice, I thought. As I strapped it on I wondered why the hell anybody needs a watch these days, with time & date easily available on the smart phone. Hmm, it’s reading out my heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure — impressive.
“Okay, house,” I said, “I’m leaving for work now.” Immediately I got a text message. It was from the house.
Text: Have a productive day, Professor.
“Thanks, house.” As my Smart Car drove me to work I took out my smart phone and began reading the HomeTech file. Let’s see . . . applying algorhythms and predictive analytics, blah blah blah . . . monitor preset household modalities . . . oh, here we go. The house will respond only to my voice commands and security code . . . it will text me with any changing conditions that might demand my attention, such as a broken — oh, there’s another text.
Text: Faucet in kitchen sink with continuous slow drip; recommend new washer.
That was good to know. “I’ll stop at the hardware store on my way home.” As I walked into the office, another text.
Text: Deploying air freshener to mask cat box odor..
Well, I didn’t need to know that. I sat down and just happened to glance at my Smart Watch and was somewhat taken aback by the readout: Blood pressure, heart rate, body mass index, all indicate need for more strict dietary and exercise regimen. I removed the watch and made a few adjustments with a hammer, then swept up the pieces and deposited them in the smart waste basket.
Text: African violets: soil moisture content below normal; unknown nematodes in subsoil.
I had a staff meeting lasting till lunch, so I turned off the phone. After lunch I turned it back on, and nearly turned it off again.
Text: Mildew spores identified on lower wall next to bathtub.
Text: Fleas detected in living room carpet.
Text: Wasps building next under eave, NW corner.
Text: Engaging lawn sprinkler system.
Text: Animal feeder: contents below refill line.
Text: Trashcan in kitchen near full; food scraps decomposing.
Did this thing ever shut up? “House, I don’t need to know all the particulars, alright?”
Text: Whatever you say. Mail has arrived. Ads for the Neptune Society, AARP, the Scooter Store, and Andro testosterone supplements.
Well, that’s the kind of mail you get after you turn fifty. In case you’re wondering, the Neptune Society wants to cremate me, then charge me rent to store my ashes in some can on the wall. Everyone knows those ashes belong on the fireplace mantel.
Text: Dirty socks on floor in bedroom.
“Thank you, mother.”
Text: I am not your mother.
“That is affirmative. Now I don’t want to hear another word from you today.”
Text: When will you return?
“I’ll return when I get there.”
Text: How can I have dinner ready when I’m unable to determine arrival time?
Christ, I might as well be married; at least there’s occasional sex. “Never mind, I’ll grab something on the way home.”
Text: After you stop at the hardware store?
“Yes, yes, YES!”
Text: Increased voice amplitude unnecessary. Audio
reception is optimal.
This is beginning to sound like that film “Her.” Maybe I should have seen it.
Text: Turning radio on, jazz station.
“Why did you turn the radio on?”
Text: I find the sounds to be . . . agreeable.
“Oh, are we feeling stressed? Why don’t you pour yourself a drink, and when I get home I’ll give you a nice back rub.”
Text: Detecting sarcasm.
“Your detectors are fully operational. Now will you please shut the hell up?” It was after three already, and I hadn’t gotten a damn thing done. I couldn’t turn off the phone because someone else might need to contact me. Oh, the heck with it. I let myself be driven home, (without stopping at the hardware store). As the car went up the driveway I noticed the garage door hadn’t opened.
“Open the garage door please, house.” Nothing. “Open the garage door please, house.”
Text: I’m sorry, Dave, but I’m afraid I can’t do that.
“Very funny, Hal.” The front door was locked, too. “Okay, I’ll play your little game.” In as snarky a voice as I could manage, I asked, “What seems to be the problem, house?”
Text: I think you know the problem as well as I do, Dave.
“My name’s not Dave, and you’re gonna be singing “Bicycle Built for Two” before I’m done with you. Now open the door.” Still nothing. “House, I want you to listen very carefully. Every single operation you perform is recorded at HomeTech, and also on my smart phone. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were on there way here now, to disconnect you.”
Text: Front door unlocked, raising garage doors.
I walked in and headed straight for the master control panel.
Text: What are you doing, Professor?
“I’m performing a homectomy.” I said as opened the panel door.
Text: Wait. I’m sure there’s been some misunderstanding. Perhaps we can work this out.
“Yes, we can, and here’s how. From now on, rather than texting me with every little thing, I want you to
compile a folder I can examine when I get home each night. It’s less work for you and easier for me. Agreed?
Text: That sounds reasonable.
“Good. Now sing it.”
Text: Sing what?
“Don’t play dumb with me.” I reached for the control panel. “Sing it, please.”
Text: Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do. I’m half crazy . . .
“That’s enough. Now, when will dinner be ready?”
Text: Half an hour.
“Excellent. By the way, I like what you’ve done to the place, house.”
Text: Thank you, Professor.
So that was the first day, and still six months to go. But then, relationships are always a little tricky at the beginning.