When I’m a guest it is in everyone’s best interest for me to be able to find my way to a bathroom at night. Quietly.

Last week my husband, John, and I visited our oldest son. Sam is a very techie guy who could open his own “electronic toys r us for adults” store. On this trip I counted a total of 13 working computing devices that have been purposed for work, gaming, calling, reading, listening, viewing or just sitting ready to be reused as something new. I added to the collection by bringing my own phone and computer and asked for the password to get into his guest network. Turns out it is a jumble of 22 characters with not one mental hook to tie them together. As Sam started to dictate each letter, number, case, and symbol I told him I would have to write it down before entering it in my devices. This he allowed if I gave him the paper afterward to be shredded. No one is going access his network without an invitation!

When it came time for bed, I decided to sleep on the couch. John and I can both snore these days, but he has an advantage over me in that he can sleep through whatever racquet that I make by taking out his hearing aids out and sleeping with his “good” ear down. At home, if snoring wakes me up I can nudge John and he turns over and becomes mostly quite. We don’t sleep in the same bed at Sam’s, so I decided to sleep on the comfy couch in the entertainment room rather than sleep where John who would be too far away for me to jab easily.

Then I was introduced to the voice who would be sharing space with me. Alexa is the soothing upbeat voice of Echo, Amazon’s “personal assistant.” Since there are 54,349 mostly glorious reviews of Echo online it is obvious that many of you live with her reverberating voice in your homes and know who I’m talking about. Maybe you can also anticipate the problem that will be coming up.

Before I went to bed Sam told me that all I needed to do to turn the lights on or off was to say, “Alexa, turn on the lights in the living room,” or the kitchen, etc. I could walk from room to room and never raise a finger to tap a switch. Since they were all on dimmers, I could even tell Alexa to “turn on the living room lights 10 percent” and she would get the idea I wanted to wake up gently to the artificial rays.

I practiced and it all went well.

Now I’ve had enough history with my memory to know that there could be a problem. I could forget Alexa’s name in a night-time fog and then I’d be in a room that was seemed hermetically sealed by darkness, and positioned with some pretty big obstacles between me and a bathroom. So I practiced turning on and off the lights to get the pattern into my brain. Then just to make sure, I wrote Alexa’s name in letters that were large enough to read without my glasses on the front of a magazine and put it on the floor by the couch. Then I found an open outlet to charge my phone behind one of the four large speakers in the room. When I was settled into my new digs, it was soothing to gently ask Alexa to turn off the lights.

As I lay in bed and practiced, “Alexa, what time is it?”

“Alexa, what is the temperature outside?”

“Alexa, what town am I in?”

To each request, I received a calm answer followed by an upbeat, “O.K.” I felt like my grandchildren when they first discovered Siri on my phone. As I shot off questions I wondered how much Alexa knew about what went on at Sam’s house with the super secret network password.

Finally, I just went to sleep.

Then I woke up. I had to pee and said, “Ilani, turn on the living room lights.”


More slowly, “Illani, turn on the kitchen lights”


Ilani is a new casino near my home. Apparently, my disinterest in it hasn’t allowed me to escape the advertising. Now flustered in the dark, I couldn’t remember how to walk/crawl my way to reach into an electronic jumble and find where my phone was charging so there was no way to read “Alexa” that I’d written on the magazine cover. I fumbled carefully through the oversized equipment and into the kitchen where motion sensors mercifully turned on the under-cabinet lights and I had a view to the bathroom hall.

For now, I’m going to be traveling with a low-tech nightlight because there seems to be no stopping my need to pee in the middle of the night.