I spent the last few days petsitting for my boss at his three-story mansion of a home. I actually got paid to spend time with the bounciest, fluffiest dog in the universe. Even better, I was encouraged to stay in their guest room, which was bigger than my entire apartment. Lucky me, right? I thought so too. I’ve been Instagramming the hell out of this place, bragging to all my friends about the talking fridge and the automated sinks and the shower that remembers your ideal water temperature.
But what’s that phrase people like to throw around? Social media shows off everyone’s greatest hits but not their behind-the-scenes? Well. My behind-the-scenes sucked. Like, they were starting to scare me they sucked so much. I don’t believe in ghosts, and I certainly don’t believe in robot uprisings or any of that sci-fi crap, but something weird went down in that house.
It started in the bathroom. Like the rest of the house, it had the works. A mirror that lights up when you apply your makeup. Speakers in the walls to play any music you ask Alexa. A heated toilet seat that keeps you cozy while you’re doing your business.
I was trying out that toilet seat for the first time, almost ready to wipe, when the thing got hot. Too hot. It went from warm to scolding in two seconds flat. I jumped onto my feet as fast as possible, but it was too late. When I checked their full-length mirror, I had burn marks spread across my thighs and cheeks. Fucking embarrassing. I was too chickenshit to tell the owners what had happened and ask them how to readjust the settings, so I borrowed some Aloe vera and called it a day. The next few times I had to pee, I hovered.
The next few hours were completely fine. Fantastic, even. My boss didn’t really need a petsitter when the dog bowl filled itself according to a timer and the backdoor opened whenever it sensed the dog standing in front of it. But they didn’t want him to get lonely, they wanted him to socialize. So I played fetch in their backyard. I tugged his rope toys and spread peanut butter on a bone.
Taking care of him was easy peasy. Things didn’t get weird again until I tried taking care of myself. All I wanted was some Mac and Cheese. I had an entire fridge of gourmet food but couldn’t hide my twenty-five-year-old, poor-kid cravings.
I put a pot underneath the sink and it filled automatically, stopping in exactly the right spot. Then I moved the pot onto the stove and it started cooking without me programming a thing. So I left it alone like an idiot. I flopped on the couch (on my stomach because my butt hurt like a motherfucker from the burns) and got distracted watching Disney+.
Maybe I was supposed to program the timer myself. Maybe I shouldn’t have relied on the smart home to handle everything on its own. Either way, it was too late for the what-ifs. The thing caught on fire. A small fire, not enough to set off alarms, but still a fire.
There weren’t any buttons or knobs on the stove, so I couldn’t figure out how to turn the damn thing off. I tore apart cabinets searching for an extinguisher — and that’s when the dog started barking. The house heard and spoke to him with a preprogrammed message. “Don’t worry,” my boss’ voice said. “We’re going to be home soon, bud. Here’s a treat.” And an extra bone dropped into his dish.
That put the obvious idea in my head. I should talk to the house. I started screaming random commands. EXTINGUISH. FIRE. STOVE. FUCK YOU. HELP. I don’t know which one worked but ceiling sprayers went off. Water sprinkled over the stove. The flames died.
The dog was perfectly happy, munching on his bone, while my stomach growled. I dumped my burnt dinner and settled on eating some leftover Halloween candy found in the cupboard. Who needed lunch anyway? I would wait a few hours and order Postmates for dinner.
In the meantime, I decided to shower. To relax. To forget about all my fuckups.
Before my boss and his family left on their vacation, his wife helped me preprogram my own personal settings. I chose my ideal water temperature and water pressure and playlist. All I had to do was say: “Alexa, start Cassandra’s shower,” and it should activate my ultimate shower experience.
I stepped inside the cube. The shower was glass on all four sides. A modern look. Like something you would see in a magazine.
I said the magic words and the shower started spraying, the music started playing, I started to forget everything that had gone wrong that day.
But slowly, the water got a little hotter. And a little hotter. And a little hotter.
“Stop,” I said. “Cold water, please. Too hot. Stop. Lower the temperature. Colder.”
In another minute, it grew from uncomfortably warm to as scalding as the toilet seat. There would be burns across my entire body if I stayed in for much longer. I tried to push out the door, but it wouldn’t budge. It had sealed. Locked me inside.
“No no no,” I said. “Stop. Off. Turn off. Shower off.”
The music turned off instead. It was replaced by a female voice. My boss’s wife.
Her preprogrammed message consisted of seven words: “I know you’ve been fucking my husband.”
Then the door unlocked. The water sputtered to a stop. I scrambled out of the shower, dripping wet.
I stuffed myself into my clothes, booked it out of the house, called an Uber, and started writing this on my Notes app.
I’m not sure whether I should contact the police or quit my job and forget about the whole thing. After all, she’s right. I screwed with her family. I slept my way into her fancy house. Maybe I deserved all this bullshit. I don’t know… All I know is, I’m never fucking with a smart home again.