Shared Moments: ‘Modern Mayhem’ written by Oliver Cross

Dear all,

Computer glitches are part of modern life, with the emphasis on ‘modern’, so that, however utterly infuriating they, they are not as life-threatening as steam-train accidents, 20th century warfare or the mass-produced narcotics.

So my partner Lynne and I should not have been too concerned by the glitch which meant that we could not stop Beethoven’s fifth symphony being playing at full volume while we were supposed to be having our evening meal (called ‘tea’ by us, although I suppose we should have honoured Beethoven by calling it ‘dinner’).

Our musical life is largely ordered by a small machine which sits in a corner of the kitchen and gives us access all Google’s available information and recorded items, ranging from the capitals and populations of every country on earth to Charlie Drake’s 1962 hit ‘I Bent My Assagai’, which, if you can’t quite recall it, is probably for the best.

The machine speaks to us in a well-modulated, but rather aloof, female voice, as if it’s been to Cheltenham Ladies’ College and finds us a bit common, so that sometimes I feel the need to move on from Charlie Drake novelty numbers to something more upmarket, not to say bearable, such as Beethoven’s fifth symphony.

Which we did, only to find that when I had had enough culture for the evening and issued the voice command ‘Hey Google, stop’ nothing happened. Beethoven just carried on as if he knew nothing of modern technological protocols. I repeated the command louder, then enunciated it more clearly, then got Lynne to yell it too, then both of us moved very close to the plastic case of the Google machine, which is about the size of a squashed orange, and shouted at it in a threatening way.

We tried, in our increasing desperation, changing the words of the command, asking Google to cease, desist, finish, disappear, get lost or go throttle itself or to play something else, such as Enya at low volume, which would have been a lot easier to completely ignore than Beethoven’s fifth. Nothing worked.

Lynne, being the nearest thing to an electrician we’ve got in the house, decided to cut the power supply to the Google machine by throwing switches and pulling out fuses until the there was complete darkness and no electrical activity at all, apart from, from out of nowhere, a fully-orchestrated performance of the fourth movement of Beethoven’s fifth.

I disgraced myself by turning paranoiac; I decided the only credible explanation was that the nice family next door was pursuing an obscure vendetta by feeding us Beethoven through the party wall.

I was about to confront them when, thank heavens, Lynne noticed that the music was not coming from the Google machine, but from her mobile phone, which is connected to Google, as is almost everything in the world. She switched the phone off and immediately all was silent and the nightmare was over, apart from the fact that all the electronic timers in the house had gone on the blink and I was still hyperventilating.

I don’t know how two separate electronic devices got themselves so mixed-up, but I think that when we all rely on immensely complex global networks we don’t fully understand, you can expect things to turn puzzling occasionally.

Thank you Oliver, this did make me chuckle as I can just picture you both. I am so pleased it resolved in the end….until next time