For What It’s Worth: Men, Martians, and Machines

The first thing I learned about myself after I retired was that I was an alien in my own house. I did not know how to work any appliance or electrical device. At work I could fix a photocopier, shredder, the occasional p/c or even a forklift, but at home I was lost. After all day at work I would come home like a zombie, eat, go to bed, and start all over again the next day.  My dear wife would follow me around picking up after me. I did not know my neighbors’ names or what was around the corner from my house. One night I came home and tried for five minutes to open my front door with my car remote!

Now I am stuck here 24-7 trying to work things that have blinking lights, make music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind or I have to talk to turn on the house lights. I called to my wife, Ms. Wizard,

“Hey kid, where is the VCR, I have a tape I want to play?” I said.

“We threw it out 10 years ago, we now have a Blue Ray,” she answered.

Not to feel any dumber than I am, I just said, “Oh.”

The next day 125 VCR tapes went into the trash.

After a crash course in learning to work the washer/drier, one day I was home alone and decided to do a few loads of laundry. One, never do this by yourself at home. I followed my instructions and pushed the red button. Like a charging bull the machine danced across the floor and pinned me against the hot water heater. As it was still jumping up and down, I took out my ten-year-old flip phone and call the Jedi Master.

“Hey kid, can you leave work now and save me from the washing machine? It has me pinned and it looks angry enough to eat me!” I said.

She just answered, “Push the red button again!” and sure enough the beast stopped attacking me, but it did play a nice song before it shut down.

Last Christmas I purchased Alexa, from Amazon, for my wife. She went nuts with it. She hooked it up to everything except the bathroom bowl, which is my territory. Now you need to ask Alexa, very politely, I will add, to turn on anything or everything in the house. Sometimes Alexa will suddenly start to get into a conversation with you or turn on something in the house you didn’t want on. This is like HAL from the movie 2001: a Space Odyssey. I am waiting for Alexa to take over the house. I want to ask Alexa to open the pod door but I am afraid that the dishwasher door will open and start to shoot plates at me. I think I should go back to work to be safe.

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Tony has lived in Lake Hopatcong since 1987. He has a bachelor’s degree in American literature from Ramapo College, a New Jersey teacher’s certificate, and a master’s in business administration from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Tony’s column, “For What It’s Worth,” appeared in Aim Jefferson for nine years. He recently retired after 46 years in the corporate world. Tony can be reached at