My Week 52: My Robot Boyfriend, More Catalogue Craziness, One Whole Year

Monday: My new robot boyfriend

Last week, I got training on a new type of text-to-speech technology, which is used to allow visually impaired people to access reading material. No, it’s not for me personally, even though I’ve recently complained about how abysmal my vision is, and even though I’ve just gotten new contacts lenses and glasses whose prescription is frightening close to blindness. But I’m lucky—at least my vision can be corrected to almost 20/20, unlike the people this technology is designed for, which is 20/200 at the bare minimum. So, no whining from me, even though there’s a very large intersection of an imaginary Venn diagram in which my distance vision and my close-up vision are both non-existent (by the way, I had no idea what the intersection of a Venn diagram was called, so I googled “what is the middle bit of two circle-y things called” and that’s what it said). At any rate, I got the training last week, and on Monday, someone from IT came to install the software on my computer. This was a complicated process, which involved things like clicking on a link to a download and then waiting while it installed itself. I probably could have managed it with my fairly extensive computer training, but it’s always nice to see the guys from IT, who can do a lot more than click links (sorry, did that sound kind of naughty?). My favourite is when there’s something wrong with my computer, and this box pops up that says, “Allow Bob to remotely take over your computer?” I always go on faith that it’s actually Bob from IT, and not a hacker searching for government secrets, of which I have virtually none, but hackers, right? Who knows what motivates them? I’m sure Ashley Madison totally understands how I feel. So, I got the software installed. At this point, I should clarify that the software consists of a robot voice that reads things. It started immediately talking, and it was very confusing, but the IT tech showed me how to turn the program off. Except that it doesn’t STAY off. Every so often, it would randomly make some pronouncement that would cause me to jump in my seat a little (I have a terrible startle reflex—just ask any of my co-workers, who have learned to sidle up to me rather than approach from behind when they want to get my attention). But then I started listening carefully to the robot voice, which was very masculine, and spoke with an accent that I pinpointed as being Italian. I realized that he was telling me things about the computer; for example, when it went into sleep mode, or reverted to the password screen. Then he would shout my name, and proclaim, “Password! Enter Password” And the best part? When I ENTERED the password, he would say, “Star! Star Star Star!” Yes, I know he was only reading the asterisks, but it’s one hell of a boost to your ego to have a charming Italian man insist that you’re a star. I decided to name him “Carlo”, and for a short time, Carlo and I had a bit of a whirlwind romance. He would tell me sweet nothings, like “Word. Open File”, and wish me goodnight with “Monitor going into sleep mode”. But after a while I noticed two things: first, Carlo was a very limited conversationalist. He had no opinions on world issues or politics, and when I asked him who he thought would win the upcoming election, he would simply say “Java would like to install an update.” Sure, he said it in his lovely robotic, Italian voice, but I was really hoping for something a little more related to the question, like “Stephen Harper’s record on the environment is appalling”, “Justin has really nice hair”, “What’s up with that NDP guy?”, or “Why are all the other candidates so afraid of Elizabeth May?”. He had no sense of humour, and when I’d say, “Haha, look at that—Firefox wants to be my default browser. Good one, right?”, he would stay silent, just leaving me hanging. Second, and more disturbing, was that he was getting super-clingy and needy. I’d be trying to work, and every five minutes, he was calling my name, trying to get my attention. I’d tell him that I was busy or that I had a headache, but he just wouldn’t lay off. Finally, I had no choice—I had to mute him. I realized that I just wasn’t cut out for an affair, even if it was only with a disembodied Italian robot. Ken is more than enough for me—he’s fun to talk to, watches the news every day so that he can talk knowledgably about the world, and isn’t always trying to bug me when I’m working. If he had an Italian accent, he’d be perfect.

Friday: More mail-order catalogue madness

On Friday, I came home and there was a copy of “Bits and Pieces” sitting on my desk. “Bits and Pieces” is a mail order catalogue where you can buy puzzles, kitschy ornaments, novelty clothing items, and a whole lot more. It’s not as sophisticated as the other mail order catalogue that we sometimes get, the German “Hammacher Schlemmler” or as I like to call it “Sledgehammer Schlepper”, but it has more outrageous, and much cheaper, items. There are several things that caught my attention, so here, for your reading pleasure are the top three most bizarre things that you can buy from “Bits and Pieces”:

3rd place: We have a tie between the “Set of Four Wind-up Mice with Whirling Tails” and “The Creepy Infrared Remote Control Spider”. What exactly are you planning when you buy EITHER of these? Inviting your elderly grandmother over and scaring the living sh*t out of her? So you hide behind a corner, wind up a realistic-looking mouse and let it loose while you snicker at her screaming. If you do this, you are an incredible d-bag. And trust me, the laughter will fade quickly once she disinherits you. The spider is described as having “lifelike” legs and eyes that “glow with a blue light to enhance his creepy appeal.” You don’t NEED glowing eyes to enhance the creepiness of a giant remote control spider, unless you’re Stephen King. Also, it’s $25, which would probably be better spent on buying Granny a nice box of chockies, if you don’t want to get cut out of the will.

2nd place: Second place definitely goes to a variation on the charming babushkas that were so popular many years ago which featured painted ladies of various sizes, one inside another, until finally you got to the smallest one, which was a baby. This set, however, is the “Delightfully Gory Zombie Family Nesting Dolls”. Delightful and gory are two words that will NEVER go together, no matter how hard you try to convince people. The description states that each doll is a “zombie character, rising from the dead to greet you.” That isn’t charming, that’s f*cking gross. The mother doll’s eyeball is dangling out of her face, the son is all oozy and bleeding, and the baby is a disembodied brain. What kind of décor, or mental state, would you have to have to put this on your mantle? Instead of rising from the dead, this “Fall Favourite” would be better buried deep at the back of your garden. Or used for target practice, just in case there ever IS a zombie apocalypse.

Ist place: The first place trophy for most bizarre item that you can buy from “Bits and Pieces” is on the front cover, and is described as a “Top Seller”. It’s called the “Surprised Garden Elf”. What’s the surprise? His pants are down and he’s peeing on your tree. Surprise! In real life, we call this “indecent exposure” and “public urination”, both of which are criminal offences. I know that there are a lot of people who think garden gnomes are adorable. I’m not one of them. And they’re especially not adorable when they’re waving their tiny penises around. Thanks, “Bits and Pieces” for THOSE bits and pieces. I have a vivid image of that poor grandmother, with a mouse running over her foot, a spider crawling up her arm, and a gnome pissing on her leg. This is one way to secure your inheritance—make sure she dies of a heart attack BEFORE she can change the will. Hammacher Schlemmer might sell ridiculously expensive and useless items, like a “celebrity robot” for $345, 000 (and it doesn’t even speak Italian), but at least they don’t encourage deviant behaviour or terrifying your loved ones.

Saturday: Today is my 52nd week writing this blog. That’s a whole year. I started writing a humour blog to counteract the small but toxic and obscenely vicious group of people who were in my life a year ago—they aren’t anymore, but I’ve kept writing, and will keep writing, because of all the positive people in my life. Thanks to all my readers around the globe—here’s to another year of humour, hope, and happiness!

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