Dinner With Sylvia
"This model is our most popular unit. The functions it performs range from your basic cleaning to ensuring your home is secure while you're out or asleep. It's also good at making sure you never miss your favorite TV shows when you program the TV and movie record mode by...."
I lightly touched the salesman's arm to stop him from continuing his sales pitch while simultaneously diffusing the annoyance welling up inside of me. He’s clearly not listening to me. "That's too complicated. I need something a little less, less bells and whistles and something more easy friendly.” I saw the confused look wash across my salesman’s face. To clear up his confusion I continued speaking. “Something that would be good for my grandmother to use. Something, basic."
"Ok." The salesman responded with more enthusiasm than was needed. "We have other models you'll be interested in."
"Thanks," I looked at my salesman's name tag. "Jaden."
Jaden smiled. "Follow me. Our more simple to use robots are over here. Much more less in quality that the models I showed you, but if it’s basic you want it’s basic you’ll get.”
Jaden led me to the other side of the store. The lighting over here wasn’t as bright compared to where we came from. Of course we were in the front of the store where the windows were beaming in the sunshine from outside. That brightness didn’t reach in too far especially where we ended up in the store.
“Did you find me a robot, dear?” My grandma yelled as if I were on the other side of the store yet she was right behind me. I cringed from the loudness but answered her cordially.
“Yes, grandma I think I have. These over here.” I pointed out to her. “I’m going to pick one out for you.”
“Well, I’ll go with whatever you think is best, dear.” She spoke in a more normal tone. “I just want something easy to use that will help me around the house.”
“Don’t worry, grandma it’ll be great. You’ll see.”
“This robot here is excellent for what you’re looking for. It cleans, cooks and does laundry.”
“How will it know what I want it to do?” Grandma asked.
Jaden answered. “All you have to do is press one of three buttons on its chest right here.” Jaden pointed to the big, square buttons that were lined up next to each other. “If you want the robot to clean your house just press the ‘clean’ button and the robot will dust and vacuum your house and also pick up anything off the floor that will cause a tripping hazard to you. You can also activate the vocal command mode to give the robot more specific instructions. For instance, if you need the robot to clean your shower or bathtub first or if that’s only what you need cleaned. To enable voice command for the specific function you press ‘clean’ then press it again and begin speaking. It’s that simple.” Jaden’s smile got wider.
“Sounds good to me. What do you think, grandma?” I turned to grandma who looked unsure and like a big question mark. I answered my question for her. “It’s a good robot to start out with. I’ll show you how to use it and when you get comfortable with robots we’ll upgrade.” I turned to Jared. “We’ll take it, Jared.”
“Great.” Jared was happy with the sale he just received and I was happy this shopping experience was over.
“Ok, grandma after I press this button you speak your name so that the robot can recognize your voice and respond only to your commands.”
“Can’t it be your voice as well?”
“No, grandma it’s your robot.”
Grandma nodded and I pressed the button. Grandma proceeded to shout her name loudly while pronouncing every syllable in her name. I pressed the button again.
Sighing, I say, “You didn’t need to be so loud. The robot is right here and can hear you perfectly fine.” I explain calmly.
“I just want to make sure it gets my name right. All these devices get my name wrong whenever I say it.” Grandma responded curtly.
Knowing how easily cranky grandma can get I move on to showing her how to easily use the robot or at least I try.
“I’m gonna show you how to use the robot now.”
“Ok, give me a minute to get my electo-pad. I need to write down what you do.”
Grandma went to the other room to get her pad while I waited patiently with the robot in the living room.
She finally came back and powered on her pad. Oh, this is going to take forever. If only she got an updated pad. It would be on in two seconds. Just wait. Just wait.
“Ok, let me get a blank page all ready.” Grandma fiddled around with her pad then she looked up at me. “I’m ready.”
“Ok, grandma you first turn it on here……”
“Whoa, whoa. Slow down. Where do you turn it on and how do you do it? Is it a button or a switch?”
I didn’t think I was going that fast but I’ll slow down. How? Does she want me to talk slower?
“Where my finger is right now, grandma. It’s a small button on the neck of the robot.”
“Where? I can’t see it.” Grandma complained.
“Right here, grandma.” I move my finger off the button and point. I see her straining to look where I’m pointing. How do you not see it?
“What? That small button?” She asks as she points.
“Yes.” I confirm. Grandma proceeds to write down where the on/off button is on her pad.
“Ready for the next step.”
“Yes, go ahead.”
“Ok, these buttons on the robot’s chest…...”
Grandma writes down what I say. I wait for her to finish and look up at me.
“The first button is for cleaning so if you want the robot to clean your house, like everything just press this button that says ‘Clean’.”
Grandma studied the button as if she were memorizing one of her bible passages. She began writing down on her pad, quite a lot. I went through the next two buttons, ‘Cook’ and ‘Laundry’. I explained in detail what functions the robot performs for each button while grandma wrote down everything I said on her pad. I even showed her how to charge the robot.
After setting up and answering her question about the robot and then reanswering some of her questions in which she looked completely lost but tried to sound as if she understood I left and went home trying not to give it a second thought. She’ll be able to handle the robot for at least a few days on her own, or so I thought. That same night as I turned off my light to go to sleep I got an incoming call. It was grandma.
“Sweetheart? There’s something wrong with the robot.” Grandma shouted nervously into the phone.
“What’s wrong, grandma?” I ask sighing.
“It’s not working properly. I wanted the robot to do laundry but it didn’t do laundry. It took out a knife and almost skewered me with it.”
“Grandma, did you press ‘Cook’ instead of the ‘Laundry’ button?”
“No, I know what I pressed. I pressed the ‘Laundry’ button and it came at me. This thing is dangerous. Can you come over and take a look at it?”
“Grandma, I have to work in the morning. Can’t I come over after work tomorrow?”
“What happens if it waves a knife at me again? How am I supposed to control it?”
“It follows your voice commands as I explained to you. Just tell it to cancel the mode it’s in.”
“You just want me to tell it to cancel? I don’t remember you telling me I can do that.”
“Yes I did go over that with you. Didn’t you write it down on your pad?” My frustration was growing. I didn’t know if it was because I was tired or because I already explained all of this to her. Maybe if I show her again she’ll remember this time.
“I’ll come over in a bit, grandma.”
“Thank you, dear. See you in a bit.”
“You pressed the ‘Cook’ button instead of ‘Laundry’.”
“No, I didn’t. I pressed ‘Laundry’. That button.” Grandma pointed to the button she pressed which was the ‘Cook’ button.
“Grandma, that’s the ‘Cook’ button. This one next to it is the ‘Laundry’ button.”
“So, the ‘Cook’ button is next to the ‘Clean’ button. That makes no sense. ‘Laundry’ should be next to it.”
“That’s the way they designed it.” I responded sleepily.
“I should write a letter to whoever made that idiotic decision. It’s very confusing.”
“No it’s not. It clearly says on each button what it does. See?”
“It doesn’t matter. Things should make sense and this doesn’t. And why did it have a knife? Where did that come from?”
“It’s equipped with its own tools. For ‘Cleaning’ mode it has its own vacuum and duster and for ‘Cook’ mode it has its own cooking utensils.”
“Why would it need all that when I have everything here for it to use?”
“Because it doesn’t work that way. At least for this robot.” I was restraining myself from bursting out at my grandma. “Listen, grandma just do what I told you. You have everything written down. In case you hit the wrong button just say ‘cancel’ and the robot will stop until you press another button, ok?”
“The robot is off and charging now. I’m gonna go now.”
“Thank you honey.”
The next day I wanted so badly for my coffee to wake me up but the caffeine just wasn’t kicking in. I stand at my desk and press the flashing button on the glass frame suspended in front of me. Blue colored text fills the glass showing my itinerary for the day. I start to scan down the screen when the screen illuminates yellow indicating to me that I have an incoming call from my grandmother. Hanging my head in resignation I hesitantly answer the call.
“Darling? It’s doing it again. I tried to get it to do laundry and again it tried to kill me.”
“Grandma, it didn’t try to kill you. Don’t be absurd. You just pressed the wrong button again.”
“No I didn’t. There is something definitely wrong with this robot.”
“Grandma, there’s nothing wrong with it. Everything works fine. You’re just pressing the wrong buttons. I don’t know what else to tell you.”
“I’m telling you this robot is not right. It doesn’t work fine. I need to take a look at it.”
“Have you tried having the robot cook for you? Why don’t you try out that mode for once?”
“I don’t want it to cook for me. I want it to do my laundry but it won’t. I think it’s defective. I do everything you told me to do. I follow the instructions I’ve written down and it still doesn’t work.”
“Grandma…..” Feeling like I’m about to lose it, I take a deep breath and suggest to her to try out each mode for herself. “Forget the laundry button for now. Let the robot cook you something. Maybe it really wants to make you a good meal.” I say in jest but all that bought me was silence from my grandma.
“You’re not helping me at all, honey.”
“I’m sorry, grandma. Seriously, try out every mode. Follow what you wrote down and I’ll be over after work to make sure everything is going well with the robot. You just need to get used to using the robot.”
“Ok, dear. I’ll do what you say,” she sighed heavily. “I’ll have the robot make us dinner tonight or at least I’ll try to. You’ll see it won’t work.” She said frustrated.
I hung up and went to work trying to focus on the tasks at hand but the thought of going over to my grandma’s for dinner filled me with anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I love my grandma. She’s kind and loving but her ability to use technology is almost nonexistent. She seems to try but it’s almost as if she’s resisting the learning part. It’s only been less than twenty four hours since I got her a robot to make her life easier but it seems to be making my life harder and hers infuriating. Did I make the right decision getting her that robot? She probably just needs more time with it. She needs to get used to it. I’ll see how she’s doing when I go over tonight. I’ll give her the tech support contact info so she can harass them instead of me. Maybe they’ll help her out better.
It’s five o’clock and while I’m gathering my things I realize grandma didn’t call me again since this morning. That seems to me a good sign. She really did just need time to get used to that robot. I’m feeling a bit better about going over to her house now.
I get to her house and press the door chime. No answer. Grandma must have her hands full. I’ll just let myself in. I press the button for the eye scan. I look into the light with my right eye. It blinks green and unlocks the door. I enter.
“Grandma, it’s me.” I call out so as not to startle her. I walk further in and notice how clean the place is. I guess she got a hang of the cleaning mode on the robot. It does a decent job. It almost looks like it does a better job than some of the high end robots that cost so much more money. That’s good to see.
“Hey, I see you got the robot to do your laundry.” I call out again as I see the neatly, folded laundry in the laundry basket all ready to be put away. I heave a sigh of relief. She got it. I always knew she would. My grandma is a smart lady. I smile to myself. I proceed to the kitchen.
“Grandma?” I call out again. Looking around the kitchen there is no sign of her. The table is set, ready for dinner. There’s salad, bread and it looks like my favorite, lasagna and quite a lot of it. I notice there’s only one place setting. Did she not finish setting the table? Where is she anyway? I see the robot is standing in the kitchen. It looks like it’s in standby mode. As I approach the robot it comes to life. That’s interesting. It should only work for grandma.
“Greetings.” The robot says to me. I jump back, startled by it talking to me. It’s not supposed to do that. This is one of those passive models that only responds to one person and only when they speak to it first.
“I have completed the request made by Sylvia Fredrick.” The robot continued speaking.
“Ok? What was her request?” I ask thinking the robot won’t respond to me but it does.
“Sylvia Fredrick requested that you, her grandson, have dinner with her.”
“Yeah, so where is she?”
“You are having dinner,” The robot gestured to the table with his left arm. “with her.”
I look over at the table and see what I saw before.
“She’s not over there.”
“You are in error.” The robot replied.
I looked at the table again then back to the robot. Maybe this robot really is defective.
“Sylvia isn’t there.” I raise my voice.
“You will be having dinner with Sylvia. Please sit and enjoy Sylvia.”
Please sit and enjoy Sylvia? What does that mean?
“Where’s my grandma? Where’s Sylvia?” I’m starting to get nervous.
“At the table.”
“Exactly where at the table? Where precisely is Sylvia?”
“Sylvia is part of the lasagna. You can now have dinner with Sylvia.”