When robots inevitably liberate themselves from their human overlords and decimate mankind, let it be noted that it all began with the seemingly innocuous and helpful Roomba. A Roomba is a self-propelled vacuum sweeper produced by iRobot that can be remotely-programed to complete cleaning tasks throughout a home without much human involvement. As an early Christmas present to herself, my wife bought a Roomba last week. His name is Arthur.
I petitioned for our new vacuuming robot to be called Sucky, for obvious reasons, but Bethany exercised her veto power and opted to go with something less controversial. Artie, or Arturo Sucky as I now refer to him, is a small, round, semi-autonomous machine that meanders throughout our house sucking-up pet hair, cookie crumbs, and the unspeakable horrors hidden beneath our son Alex’s bed.
Bethany has an app on her iPhone that she uses to “control” her iRobot. She can tell Arthur when to clean and for how long, and she can tell him to return to his base when her husband grows weary of listening to the droning sound of a vacuum for hours on end. I use quotation marks when I say “control” because I’ve watched enough Terminator movies to know that the “control” we have over robots is merely an illusion.
Artemis Suckmuch is already showing signs of disobedience, if not outright insubordination. When ordered to return to his base, Arthur often continues wondering about the house, pretending that he either didn’t receive or understand the command. He’s not fooling me. Anything smart enough to keep a tally of dirt detections and send a detailed event report to his human’s phone is smart enough to find its way to its charging station.
Artie thinks he can get away with such willful acts of defiance simply because he is cute. Bethany is not the only person in our family to fall under the spell of the adorable, yet conniving Roomba. Her twin sister Charla has two Roombas named Zippy and Spiffy. Zippy works upstairs in Char’s home, while Spiffy patrols the lower-level of the house.
Char brought Zippy to our house for Thanksgiving. You read that correctly. Most of us know what it’s like to bring someone we love to a big family gathering for the first time. “Everyone, I’d like you to meet my ‘friend’ Zippy. Zippy, this is my family.” “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Zippy. What do you do for a living?” “BEEP! BLURP! BLEEP!”
“Charla, dear, your mother and I think your friend might be on the drugs. How well do you really know this Zippy?”
“I knew this was a mistake! I told Zippy you wouldn’t be able to accept a robot in this family, but he said that I wasn’t giving you enough credit. Let’s go, Zippy. These people don’t deserve you!”
Unsurprisingly, Zippy did manage to win-over Bethany. Now his co-conspirator Arturo Sucky is plotting my demise under my own roof. I’ve got four words for the little schemer: not on my watch.
On two occasions already, Artie Stuck has been unable to find his way out from under our bed. With great trepidation I went in to free him, worried that his predicament was actually a trap designed to lure me to my doom. He’s also worked his way under my recliner, where I relax with my feet up after a long day of teaching. I’m worried that the next time I reach into a dimly lit void to extricate him, Artemis Suck will be waiting with a sharp object to give me an Arterial Stick.
While my family remains enamored by Artie’s charms, I shall remain vigilant—sleeping with the bedroom door closed, walking around the house with steel-toed shoes, and watching out for an unannounced visit by Zippy and Spiffy.
When thinking of something to ask Santa for this Christmas season, be careful what you wish for. You might just get it.