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It’s no laughing matter when a house outwits its owner

An accidently locked door left Dorothy Wilhelm alone in a cold garage with with a room full of “mystery boxes.”
An accidently locked door left Dorothy Wilhelm alone in a cold garage with with a room full of “mystery boxes.”

I do not live in a smart house. My house is dumb as a box of bricks, and that’s fine with me. Lately, though, I’ve become convinced that this small perfect condo is definitely out to get me. Probably it resents not having the latest technology installed. I do not speak to Alexa. I do not have facial recognition at the doors. Which face would I use? The wrinkly one which I wear when I get up in the morning, or the work of art that I achieve after I’ve filled all the miry crevasses with enough concealer to seal up the Grand Canyon? Either way, the house could only recognize me a fraction of the time.

Just a short time ago, I noticed that little things were starting to go wrong, like the carpet lumping up under my feet, causing a tripping hazard. Or when I opened the closet door, a giant pack of TP or perhaps a tack hammer would fall on my head. Naturally, I laughed this off. Who doesn’t have a spare tack hammer in their linen closet, after all? Last Sunday night, though, I had to go from the kitchen to the garage to put out the garbage. The minute I stepped through the door, it slammed and locked behind me, with what I’m sure, looking back, was an evil sneer. I’ve lived in this condo 11 years and this never happened before. I don’t even have a key for that door. I suspect conspiracy. I’m pretty sure my cell phone is involved, and I just bought an electric can opener that I have my doubts about, too.

I don’t expect too much from my house. Our family home in rural Montana was definitely not high tech, no electricity or indoor plumbing. No outdoor plumbing either for that matter. Our outhouse on the banks of the Great Kootenai River was a four-seater. It doubled as the community center.

No use mourning over the good old days. There I was, on Sunday night, wandering around in a cold garage with assorted bags of garbage and two dozen mystery boxes which I haven’t looked into since 2007. At least it wasn’t as cold as Minnesota where my Number Four Son reports, “Gotta pull your hat over eyebrows. Scarf up to nose. Basically everyone in Minnesota looks like a bank robber.”

Still after awhile, having tried opening the door with a credit card and fruitless rattling of door handle, I was really, really cold. Luckily, my phone was in my pocket as I’d been listening to stories (while it listened to me?) . So, independent woman that I am, I called my son. “This is not an emergency,” I quavered “but I’m locked out of the house.”

“Mother, can you get around to the front of the house?” “Yes, but the door is locked.” “Well, walk around anyway. It will give you something to do.” By the time I got to the front door, my daughter in law had reminded us of the lockbox, fastened on the front porch for easy access by the EMT’s on the inevitable day when I’m collapsed on the floor inside the house. Since I wasn’t collapsed on the floor, I hadn’t thought it would be appropriate to use it. I even remembered the combination. Of course, I didn’t have my glasses so I couldn’t see it. But after several tries, the box opened, the door opened, and I was back inside.

Now I’m warm and I’ve wrapped my phone in foil and put it in the freezer, and I unplugged the new can opener. Just a precaution. I am free to think of more pleasant things like the fact that Valentine’s Day will soon be here. I admit I do keep an eye out for romantic cards but nothing much comes in my mail except invitations to functions where I can have dinner while watching a demonstration of stem cell surgery or easy cremation, in case the surgery doesn’t work out.

One young relative informed me that I shouldn’t worry about valentines because I’m not interested in romance any more. “Really?” I was a bit surprised but she seemed very sure. “No,” she said. “You’re maybe interested in someone to go to a play or have lunch with. That’s all,” she said firmly.

Well, I probably don’t remember where everything goes anyway.

I’m staying inside for awhile. I’m definitely outmatched by artificial intelligence. When I have to go to the garage, I carefully prop something in the doorway. If the phone rings, don’t answer it.

Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker and humorist. Reach her at or 800-548-9264.

Book signings

Join Dorothy Wilhelm for these special events and signings for her new book, True Tales of Puget Sound.

Feb. 14: The Olympian, Olympia, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Feb. 17: Old Cannery, Sumner, 10 a.m.-noon

Feb. 19: Greater Hansville (Wash.) Community Center, 7 p.m.

Feb. 23: Schmidt House, Olympia, 1-3 p.m.

Feb. 24: DuPont City Hall. 1-3 p.m.

For more information: