Lyrical Laughs

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Please and thank you, Alexa

When First and Second born were being brought up, they knew politeness and respect went a long way in our family. When “Please” was not added to a request and “Thank you” was absent from a kind deed, it was a short trip to the word “No.”

Enter Alexa. Chances are you’ve seen or at least heard commercials (while you were flipping through Facebook) for this “intelligent personal assistant” created by Amazon as another reason to never publish another encyclopedia. Does anyone even publish encyclopedias anymore?

I have a problem with Alexa, or Siri, or any of the smart electronic devices that can recite lyrics to a song with a simple teaser or time your baked goods or order flowers. None of them teach you how to be polite. When is the last time you used “please” when you asked Siri to show you the most direct route to a Thai restaurant? Have you ever thanked Alexa for reminding you about your dentist appointment? Of course not. They don’t require you to use your manners.

Second Born devised a sneaky little method to get around our “please” and “thank you” rules when she was very young. She would ask for something and, with the confidence of an adult who concludes a query letter for a job with “Thank you in advance for your consideration”, Little Miss Smarty Pants concocted her own version. “May I have some ice cream? Please and thank you!”

While this was not exactly the phrasing and emphasis I was going for, I had to acknowledge her clever way of covering all the bases.

So, how are we teaching our kids to ask for things now? We aren’t, at least not with these electronic gadgets that have the answer or solution for almost everything. On a side note, I just had a flashback of my twenties, when I was sure my parents were old because they used phrases like “gadgets” – and here I am. I can almost feel my hair turning white in Second Born’s eyes as she sits across the living room from me.

Back to my point of politeness. Spouse was given an Alexa as a token of appreciation from his work place. Alexa is sitting on our kitchen counter all charged up and ready to answer our questions. In fact, Alexa keeps reminding us how ready she is, if we would just start using the dang smart phone application and ask her some stuff already. I have added a condition to our use of Alexa. We must – and I mean MUST – always say please upon our request, and thank you when Alexa responds.

I have also forbidden Spouse to call Alexa stupid. That’s one of his favorite words when his smart phone or his laptop does something to irritate him. Call me quirky (and I’m all right with that) but I don’t want anything with a name to be degraded. What if it rebelled and stopped working? Mind you, user error is a significant factor, but until my mate admits that sometimes he’s messed up, he is putting us all in jeopardy by being too critical of the electronics we are surrounded with. I, for one, don’t care to end up driving down a dead-end dirt road because my GPS decided we didn’t deserve to find our way home. If you think I’m crazy, do a YouTube search of Dave and Hal from A Space Odyssey.

Am I being too persistent about politeness? Personally, I don’t feel you can be too polite or courteous. So, if you do take advantage of this new technology, use your manners, even if you are talking to an electronic know-it-all. That way you’re less likely to find yourself at a biker bar when you really just wanted Italian.

On a final note, I should apologize for doubting Garth Brooks in the commercial where he asks for a weather update. Alexa really does know that "deep in her heart" the thunder rolls. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

How not to be a turkey

You’re a turkey. Oh, don’t get your feathers all ruffled, we’re just pretending. You and your family or friends make up a flock turkeys. You’ve just stepped out of a wooded area after visiting your favorite pond or bug hunting spot, and you’re about to cross a quiet little road on your way back to your favorite sleeping tree. Yes, turkeys sleep in trees.

You don't stop and look for oncoming traffic because - well, you're a turkey!

But the driver of a car that’s supposed to be doing 25 miles per hour and is rounding the curve at 40 has no idea they are about to cross paths with you. Can anybody win in this scenario?


That’s a heck of a way to start off what is normally a humorous post, I know. There’s nothing funny about a turkey-covered windshield, especially at the moment it happens. In fact, there is really nothing funny about an animal placing themselves in front of a dangerous situation. Even less so, a person. But if you drive, you probably do just that more than once a week.

So, I want everyone to count with me. I’ll go first. One, Two, Three. Your turn.

One. Two. Three.

You may have just saved your life and possibly someone else’s, because almost every day that you drive, you could be first in line at a traffic light. You wait for your turn. Your light turns green. You move forward.

Did you read that carefully? I’ll say it again.

You wait for your turn. Your light turns green. You move forward.

But the other driver is determined to beat the yellow light that’s about to turn red. Or they think they’ll just squeak under the red light.

Or, all too often these days, they JUST KEEP DRIVING long after the light has turned red.

One. Two. Three.

The American Traffic Solutions website recorded that in 2015, two people died every day in red light running crashes. That becomes 60 people dying each month, and that becomes an average of 720 a year. 720 Lives A Year. It starts with two and it doesn’t stop.

Now, here’s a somewhat embarrassing statistic.

In a national telephone survey by the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety, 94 percent of drivers said they believe it is unacceptable to go through a red light if it's possible to stop safely. We won't try to figure out the mindset of the other 6 percent. But the bigger irony? In that same survey, 39 percent reported doing so. In the past 30 days.

Three. Two. One.

Remember, the order doesn’t matter. The time it takes you to count does.

In this great state of Vacationland, reckless driving ramps up during the summer tourist season. Sometimes a driver is following another car and doesn’t want to become separated. Maybe they’re lost, or paying more attention to the GPS, or reading a text, or JUST NOT STOPPING. The reasons don’t matter as much as the devastating result.

Several cities use red light cameras now, and statistics show up to a 40 percent decrease in red light violations. But some cities have removed the cameras amid the backlash from an increase in traffic tickets... shooting the danger level back up by 30 percent.

One. Two. Three.

New England winter driving can be harsh, but it is somewhat predictable. The snow and ice don’t make the decision for you. In summer, a lot of other factors come into play. For instance, a holiday weekend equals more cars, more lost tourists, more impatient drivers not always making the best decisions.

I started with some name calling – or is it turkey calling - to get your attention, but what I really want is to ask a favor of you all. Don’t become a statistic. Please value your own life and others on the road.

I’m asking you to resist running a yellow or red light and avoid making what could be a fatal decision. I’m also asking you to always be aware that another driver just might be making that decision for you.

When the light turns green, before you move forward, count.

One. Two. Three.

Please... don’t be a turkey.