the inheritance

by margie marek

When my wealthy cousin passed away and left me his self-driving car, I figured it was purely splenetic. He knows how I feel about technology and anyway, I already have a self-driving car . . . it’s my regular car that I operate with my own SELF. This high-tech gadget crazed society is getting more ridiculous by the nanosecond.

I figured a self-driving car ought to be parked in the garage of a self-living house. I was so atrabilious about owning a computerized self-driving car, I passive-aggressively took the remainder of the inheritance money and built a house with a garage that is self-opening.

The car need only drive up to the door. Using a variation on facial recognition software, once the car is scanned, the garage door automatically opens. The Roomba vacuums the floors. Alexa answers any questions and orders needed supplies; the smart refrigerator lets Alexa know when the milk is about to spoil and it’s running low on avocados or strawberry jam. The coffee pot with the automatic timer brews fresh coffee daily. Siri keeps Alexa company while cross-breeding the technology, blending Apple with Android. It’s a modern house for sure, with a modern “blended family.” The robotic dog, Wags, chases his tail while the automatic ice machine deposits more ice into the overflowing plastic bin. I live across the street from this automated monstrosity and enjoy watching the mechanized household operate with the futility of a crazy person watching a coo-coo clock.

One sunny afternoon, when the grandfather clock I inherited from my grandfather, chimed three times, I realized how hungry I was and decided to drive myself downtown for some ice cream. I should have seen this coming because I know every movement of the house I built with the precision of a Swiss watch. I guess the hunger clouded my judgment because as I was backing out of my driveway, I got into a car accident with the self-driving car, I’d come to call Otto.

Well, this was a new experience, as I wasn’t sure who was responsible for notifying their insurance and the police. Since I technically owned both vehicles, and prefer no police, I was happy simply exchanging contact information with Otto and paying for any damage out of pocket. Otto, on the other hand, was programmed to notify the insurance company and police after any incident. His artificial intelligence only went so far. When I found myself trying to reason with the computerized car, an argument quickly ensued because Otto was VERY stubborn.

“There has been an accident. We need to call the police and exchange insurance information. Thank you,” Otto again declared in his flat automated voice.

“This is absurd,” I said, huffing a breath of exasperation and rolling my eyes skyward. “I’m basically fighting with myself.”

“There has been an accident. We need to call the police and exchange insurance information. Thank you,” Otto repeated, like a sound bite looping in on itself.

“I can’t take this anymore. I’m done. No. Otto, you’re done.”

In what some may call self-preservation and others may label spite, I pulled Otto’s plug. Next, I shifted him into neutral and pushed him into the safety of his garage. I ventured inside the immaculate self-living house, poured myself a cup of already brewed coffee and made myself a bowl of ice cream.

“Haagen Das vanilla bean ice cream, two pints,” the refrigerator notified Alexa, who promptly requisitioned Amazon Pantry to dutifully deliver the depleted delicacy.

My cat, Bach, and I blithely moved in later that evening; his self-cleaning litter box an appropriate addition.  Eventually I sold my house across the street and we couldn’t be happier with our new automated housemates.

My hard feelings have softened with the regularity of the household’s functions. I had previously thought this a modern blended household, but am now seeing, without a human touch, it was incomplete. I teach the machines about emotions and they model consistency, precision and action without thought. In my self-living house, together, we live by our SELVES.

© 2023 margie marek  All rights reserved.

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