Several times each day I call out the name of a person who doesn't live in my house.

“Alexa ... what's the weather forecast?”

“Alexa ... what time do the Cleveland Indians play today?”

“Alexa ... where did you hide my socks?”

The Alexa in question is, of course, an Amazon woman (so to speak), archrival of Apple's Siri.

She is a virtual assistant who, depending how you program her, can do the basics — answer spoken questions, play songs and radio stations, compile to-do lists, provide real-time news, weather, sports and traffic — or even act as a control center for smart devices throughout your entire house.

As in, “Alexa ... turn off the living-room lights.”

My Alexa (a Christmas gift) can answer a lot of questions, although sometimes she is stumped by queries that don't seem particularly complicated. The last time that happened, she said, "I wasn't able to understand the question."

To which I instantly replied, “Why the hell not?” Failing to first use the magic word “Alexa” to get her attention, though, my reply went unanswered. Kind of like forgetting to pose your “Jeopardy” answer in the form of a question, I suppose.

In any event, I recently began to wonder what things might be like these days for a real-life Alexa.

Answer: In some cases, life is funnier. In many cases, the bloom is off the rose.

Alexa Lee, who appears on the weekday program “Live on Lakeside” on Cleveland's WKYC (Channel 3), says viewers have told her, “Every time you're on with Hollie [Strano], you set off the device in my house.”

Lee doesn't own an Alexa herself but got to play around with one when the station was contemplating an ongoing monthly news segment called “Ask Alexa.”

She sent me a test video they shot near Valentine's Day. The highly produced clip opens with a hologram-like Lee rotating around on the top of the Amazon product, and consists mainly of her suggesting novel Valentine gifts.

The station decided “Ask Alexa” would be better-suited for the website than for newscasts. Because it required so much production time, Lee decided to boot the concept entirely.

But the Alexa issue lives on at Channel 3. Lee says one of the station's videographers has a daughter named Alexa and he would get so annoyed at home that “he had to change the name of the product. 'He'd yell, 'I'm not talking to you.' ”

There's another Alexa Lee in our area, but this one isn't a TV personality. She lives in Medina and has a much tougher job: police officer.

“I actually never had an Alexa until I moved in with my boyfriend who had one,” she says.

At that point, the relationship hit a small snag.

“I remember we would be having conversations or he would call for me in a different room and it would turn on. We had to change its name to Echo rather than Alexa.”

Amazon gives users the option of switching Alexa's birth name to two other names, Echo and Computer. (If you ask me, “Computer” seems a bit impersonal.)

Amazon reportedly chose Alexa as its primary identity because that stands apart from most words commonly used in conversation, thanks to the “X” partway through.

Medina's Alexa Lee hears jokes aplenty. And she's fed up.

“Sometimes they’ll say, 'Oh, were you named after the bot?' And one time one of the cashiers was saying how her son can never pronounce her name right, so she was happy he wasn’t there.

“I’m sick of [the jokes]. I know people are just being friendly and joking, but it happens at least a couple times per week.”

Another Alexa from Medina, Alexa Engist, owns neither an Alexa nor a Siri. And she's perfectly happy without one.

“Never cared for them,” she says. “So I can't say my life has been affected — except for some very bad jokes. The jokes definitely got bad.”

Wait. How about this one?

An Alexa, a Siri and a Computer walk into a bar ....

 

Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or bdyer@thebeaconjournal.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31.