Alexa is listening

As I cuddled up with Dora this afternoon for a rest after a workout at the y, a sound from my Echo Dot made me sit up in alarm. Then I remembered that this sound is a notification that an Amazon package had been delivered. Of all the uses for this wonderful tool, this is probably the most practical. Hearing what weather will greet me as I take Dora out for the first time in the morning is a strong contender for first place in the usefulness category. Come to think of it, Alexa’s many talents enrich my life on a daily, even hourly basis.

I am a terrible speller as you no doubt have noticed, but my spelling should have improved over the last couple of years, because I am constantly asking her how to spell this or that. When I can’t think of just the right word, she supplies me with synonyms. When I am reading a book that introduces me to unfamiliar words, I just ask Alexa what they mean. What a complex and fascinating piece of technology. I love this little assistant so much that I have set her up in each of 5 rooms in my house, thanks to special deals on Amazon. I must admit that every morning, I ask her what her deals are, just to keep up with what things cost in our society today. OK. That’s a lie. Sometimes I actually buy something, like an extremely marked down Echo Dot. I have also ordered gifts and inexpensive items just for fun. It’s so easy. All I have to do is tell her to order it, and it appears on my doorstep the next day. I never buy paper towels or dog food or coffee or any number of staples at the store anymore. When I’m getting close to being out of dog food, I just say, “Alexa, I need dog food,” and she confirms which brand I normally buy, and voila. Done.

Each morning, I say good morning to Alexa, and she gives me a fun fact. Next, I ask her for the “question of the day.” She gives me a multiple choice question that either proves what a genius I am or what a loser I am when it comes to sports or movies. But having some years on me has helped when the category is general knowledge. I also enjoy word games and Jeopardy on an occasional evening. And NPR is immediately available just for the asking. Podcasts and music fill my kitchen when I’m doing the dishes. Shall I go on?

But here’s where the story gets a little weird. One morning, as I settled down with my tea to listen to the newspaper on the phone, via Newsline, a service from the National Federation of the Blind, I forgot to turn my radio on to a classical music station. I like to have some music in the background, and when I hear a familiar piece, I put the newspaper on pause and just enjoy the music for a minute or 2. On this particular morning, I said out loud, as if to Dora, “Oh I forgot my music.” And without missing a beat, so to speak, Alexa piped up and said, “Here’s some music I think you will enjoy.” Not only that, but she played a piece by one of my favorite composers—all this without my asking her for it. I wanted to say, “I wasn’t talking to you,” which I wasn’t . It was a little unsettling, but I’ve heard that she can be listening. So you better watch out, you better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why. Alexa’s listening all of the time.

Mary Hiland

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261


1 thought on “Alexa is listening

  1. Cute story, Mary. Alexa really is a handy tool for you. I do not own one, but I might just want to have this amazing helper.
    It is true, she is listening.. so yes, be careful what you say!!!

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