My new personal assistant device was a little larger than my old one, that is, it looked like a larger hockey puck, and when, after a few false starts, I managed to get it connected to my wi-fi it said, “Hello, Arnold.” I was a little surprised but maybe I shouldn’t have been as this was advertised to be a new and improved model. I also saw that its name wasn’t Alexa, as was my old one, but Athena.
Before I proceed, a little about myself. I’m 25 years old, live in an apartment in Sacramento,, one of the few cities in California still affordable, although barely, and, not surprisingly as Sacramento is the state capital, work in one of the government agencies. My salary just about covers my expenses so purchasing Athena was an indulgence, but as my landlord didn’t allow pets I felt I needed some companionship and my old Alexa, a gift from my brother, had inexplicably died.
You might want to know if I have a girl friend and the answer would be No. There was a girl, Betty, in my office, who I thought liked me and she was nice enough but, with my tight budget, I really didn’t have the funds to spend on dates. Besides, I was interested in someone else; her name was Adriana Harris, a real beauty and also smart; she was a manager. I managed to stop into her office every now and then but of course never even thought of doing anything more. At any rate, my immediate concern was to somehow increase my income. My brother suggested that I look into investing in the stock market and referred me to his broker. I went to the broker’s office and he recommended a utility stock which was safe (I’d told him I didn’t want anything too risky) and paid a nice dividend. I told him I’d think it over.
I’d come to have daily conversations with Athena. I said Good Morning to her and she told me about something significant that had happened on this day. I asked her what was going on in the world and she’d give me the news of the day and also the current weather in Sacramento. When I returned to the apartment after work I’d tell her I was back and she’d say Welcome Home, give me an updated news report, then, when I asked, give me all the sports news and in general make appropriate replies to my comments and finally, when I told her Good Night, she’d respond with something like wishing me sweet dreams or telling me to look forward to the next day.
When I got back from the broker’s office, just out of curiosity, I told Athena about the utility he’d recommended and she replied that I should by no means buy it. The next week the newspaper reported that the utility was held responsible for some of the wildfires raging through California that summer, had many lawsuits filed against it and would probably go bankrupt. I told Athena I appreciated her advice; she’d saved me a lot of money. Then I had an idea. I did some research of my own and found half a dozen companies I thought had promise. I asked Athena about each of them. Three she immediately dismissed, two she liked and one, a Silicon Valley start-up, she somewhat surprisingly said to take a chance on. I followed her advice and In the next few months the stocks of all of the companies, especially the start-up, went up substantially. It occurred to me that Athena in Greek mythology was the Goddess of Wisdom. Maybe that was why that was my device’s name.
I made a few changes in my way of living. I replaced my old Dodge with an almost new Camry. I bought some new clothes. I ate out more. One day when I passed Adriana Harris in the office she remarked that I seemed to be doing very well lately. I gathered my courage and asked her out to dinner. After some hesitation, she said okay. I think she was intrigued by my new-found confidence. I chose one of San Francisco’s more expensive restaurants and Adriana chose the most expensive item on the menu. She was very curious about my financial status. I told her that I’d lately come into some money but was vague about how. The dinner date went pretty well. When I took Adriana back to her apartment, in an expensive building on Pacific Heights, I kissed her good night. She didn’t ask me in.
My investments, including a few new ones that Athena approved of, continued to do well. I continued to see Adriana Harris and thought I was making some progress until one night we went back to my apartment after another one of our expensive dinners. She acted surprised that I lived in such a crummy place. She told me that I must look for another apartment immediately. She also wasn’t too impressed by Athena. “You mean you actually talk to that thing,” she snorted.
“Athena is very smart,” I said.
Adriana shook her head. “I thought you had some possibilities,” she said. “Now I don’t know.”
After I returned to my crummy apartment (I’d taken Adriana back to her ritzy place, had the usual good-night kiss but nothing more) I turned to Athena. “Well, what do you think?”
“That woman is not suited to you. Her only interest is in your money.”
That was what I was beginning to think. On our next “date” Adriana took me to a jewelry store and indicated she’d be pleased if I bought her that expensive bracelet she just had to have. That was the last time I asked her out. A little while later I asked Betty, the girl in my office I thought liked me, out to lunch. We had a good time and a few weeks later I brought her to my apartment. She didn’t think it was too bad although it could do with some sprucing up. I introduced her to Athena. They immediately got into a deep conversation about decor, the best places in San Francisco to shop, the place of women in society and I don’t know what else. I thought that this time Athena would approve of my choice of a girl friend. But when I asked her later that night I had a surprise. She told me that Betty wasn’t the girl for me. She was superficial and I’d quickly become bored with her. This created a dilemma as I really liked Betty. However, Athena had never steered me wrong and so I reluctantly ended our relationship.
Fortunately, at that time I was able to transfer to a better job, a promotion, in another agency and so no longer was in the same office as Betty, or Adriana for that matter. By this time I was also comfortably well off thanks to my investments and I gave up my apartment, which I had to admit wasn’t all that great, and was able to buy a small house in the suburbs. I joined a dating service and found Helen, an attractive woman who worked as a paralegal, who I liked as much as I’d liked Betty and who was, I realized, much sharper. As usual, I asked Athena about Helen, expecting a vote of approval. But again Athena said No, Helen wasn’t suitable for me. I was a bit exasperated. “Well, then who is suitable for me, Athena?”
She replied, “Who do you think?” Her tone made it clear what she meant; she was the one. This posed a real dilemma. I’m still trying to figure it out.