Help me, Rhonda!: Chapter Two

Copyright J. S. Raynor, 2013, 2017

Chapter Two : An introduction To Rhonda

Following Lynn’s enquiries, a Social worker, Angela, made an appointment to visit Harry and Emma. She referred to her notes. “You look well for your age, Mr. Dale.  I thought you were in your late sixties, but I see from your record that you are seventy-eight.”

Harry, pleased by her observations, replied, “Right now, I’m feeling crap and definitely my age.” After a moment’s thought, he added, with a cheeky smile, “Sometimes, I feel just like a twenty-five year old, but Emma won’t let me!”

Angela, ignoring this flippant remark, said, “I’m sorry, Mister & Mrs. Dale, but the plain truth is that both of you could do with some assistance to help you get through the day.  Now, I could organise a Home Carer to call on you, say three times a day.”

“you can forget that! I don’t want someone coming round here for a few minutes and creating havoc.  I prefer our own mess to one created by a so-called helper!”

Un-phased by Harry’s hostility to her suggestion, Angela said, “I’m sorry you feel that way. Listen, Mr. Dale, I know you don’t like the idea of a retirement home, but how about a full-time carer?  Would that help to change your mind?”

“Wouldn’t that be very expensive?” asked Emma, convinced that their pensions would not be sufficient for a full-time carer. “I thought the councils were looking at ways of reducing the social welfare costs?”

Angela smiled at Emma’s understandable concern. “It would be expensive if it was a human being, but I was thinking of a robot.”

Harry was surprised by this suggestion. “Robot?  You can’t be serious!  Surely, they can’t be that sophisticated, can they?”

Smiling, Angela said, “There is a new generation of lower-cost, domestic robots which, I think, may be the perfect solution.”

Harry looked interested. “Now, that sounds a better idea!  I’m definitely interested.”

Angela smiled. “Good!  After your son told me that you were not interested in a retirement home, I checked out all the possible alternatives.  I think this may be a realistic solution.  Leave it with me and I’ll organise a demonstration.”

A week later, Harry was sitting, reading a newspaper, when the door bell rang.

Emma slowly got to her feet and headed towards the door. She returned with a man following her. Emma offered him a seat.

Dennis, looked as if he was in his late thirties and had a noticeably nervous expression. “Thanks for allowing me to come here, Mr. and Mrs. Dale, and show you the benefits of our newly-released domestic robot.”

Emma looked a little anxious as she asked, “Newly-released?  I hope it’s going to be reliable?  Is it from Japan or America?”

Dennis looked a bit uncomfortable as he replied, “not Japan, nor America.  I’m afraid that with the Government cuts, we could not afford the expense of Japanese or American technology.  But, I can assure you that it is extremely reliable and thoroughly tested before it is made available in a domestic situation.”

Harry, realising that Dennis appeared to be holding back on some information, impatiently asked, “So, where is the robot?”

Dennis gave a nervous laugh. “Oh, just in the hall.  If you are ready, then I will call her.” He turned towards the partly open door. “Rhonda! Come here, please.”

The door opened fully and a Filipino-looking woman walked stiffly into the room. If she had been human, Rhonda looked as though she may be around twenty to thirty years old, about five foot four inches tall, slim and had long, black hair.

Harry’s face lit up and his jaw dropped in obvious admiration at the sight of the beautiful young woman standing in front of him. “Good God!  She’s a looker!  Rhonda?  What sort of a name is that?”

“Rhonda stands for Robotic, House-Owner’s Natural, Domestic Assistant.”

Harry gave a smile as he said, “Really? It sounds more like a bloody valley in Wales, to me!”

Dennis turned to the robot, saying, “Introduce yourself, Rhonda.”

As Rhonda began to follow Dennis’s instructions, she spoke in a typically robotic fashion, yet the language was not English. She spoke Tagalog, a dialect commonly used in the Philippines. “Kumusta kayo, Mr. & Mrs. Dale.  Masaya ako na mag alaga sa iyong dalawa.”

Harry looked shocked. “What the bloody hell is she talking about?  Do we have to learn that language?”

Dennis looked distinctly uncomfortable. “Er, no.  Sorry, I forgot to change the language to English.  She is the very latest technology, direct from Manila. Dennis pointed a remote control at Rhonda and pressed a few buttons.

Rhonda began to speak again. “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Dale.  My name is Rhonda and I am happy to look after you both.”

Emma was amazed and said, “That’s remarkable.  She’s very life-like, isn’t she, Harry?”

Harry was staring at Rhonda, while a smile lit his face. “She certainly is.  So what can she do?”

Dennis was very enthusiastic. “Ask her – she understands everything we say.”

“Pleased to meet you, Rhonda.  My name is Harry and my wife is Emma.  Tell me what you can do for me, er, I mean us?”

(    “Hello, Harry.  I can clean the house, cook your meals, assist you with personal hygiene and many other tasks.  I can ease the load from Emma to make both your lives easier.”

Harry, replied with a KNOWING SMILE, “I bet you can.” Emma gave her husband a look of disapproval.

Dennis explained, ”Rhonda’s intelligence is intuitive, allowing her to learn and adapt to your particular requirements.” He opened his brief case and removed a thick instruction manual. He handed this, together with the remote control To Harry. “Right. I think I can leave Rhonda with you, now. Here is the instruction manual, in case you encounter any problems.”

Harry grimaced as he felt the weight of the manual. “God, it’s heavy! I hope that it’s in English.”

Dennis gave a nervous little laugh. “Oh, yes.  English is on pages one hundred and eighty-five to three hundred and forty-two.” Dennis stood up and, looking desperate to escape, said, “Right! I’ll leave you in Rhonda’s capable hands.”

Harry was keen to try out this new technology. “Rhonda – show Dennis to the door, please.”

Immediately, Rhonda turned around and grabbed Dennis roughly by the upper arm, pulling him towards the living room door. “Look, Dennis!  This is a door!”

Dennis looked extremely flustered and struggled to free his arm from Rhonda’s tight grip. He massaged his bruised arm and said, “Yes, Rhonda.  Thanks for that!” He turned back to face Harry and Emma. “Please remember that Rhonda is still a robot and will execute commands literally.” Turning back to Rhonda, he said, “It’s okay, Rhonda.  I will let myself out, thank you.” Dennis hurriedly let himself out of the apartment, slamming the outer door noisily behind him.

Rhonda lifted her expressive eyebrows, an annoyed expression appeared on her face, obviously aimed at the disappearing salesman.

Emma, strangely, felt sympathy at the robot. “Rhonda, come and sit down in that chair.” Emma pointed to an empty chair and, obediently, Rhonda did as requested.

“Now, Rhonda.  Tell me what sort of food you can cook for us.”

The smile returned to Rhonda’s face. “Many dishes like calamari, adobong baboy or manok, bodbod or apritada.”

Realising that these must be Filipino dishes, she asked, “Er, can you cook things a little more British?  Like fish and chips, steak pie or a pork casserole?” Concentrating on her question, Emma was unaware that Harry was studying Rhonda’s shapely legs.

“I can cook anything.  I am connected to the Internet and can check recipes from anywhere in the world.”

Harry had a sudden idea and, speaking to Emma, said, “How about asking her to make beans on toast?  It’s simple and nearly lunch-time.”

Emma thought this was a reasonable idea. “Okay, Rhonda, we would like you to make beans on toast for us.  Come with me and I’ll show you where everything is in the kitchen.” Harry watched, as Rhonda’s shapely figure followed Emma, as requested.

In the kitchen, Emma showed Rhonda around the cupboards, indicating which areas she would need for the preparation of lunch. “Now, Rhonda, here is the bread.  There is the toaster and the beans are in that cupboard.” Emma pointed to the cupboard. “The plates, knives and forks are in here.” Emma opened the cupboard and the drawer to indicate to Rhonda.

“Okay, Emma. You relax and I will prepare lunch for you and Harry.”

Smiling, Emma returned to the living room.

Seemingly efficient, Rhonda placed two slices of bread in the toaster, but did not yet depress the handle to start the toasting process. Opening the cupboard containing the various tins, she removed one and, by placing the can at eye-level, scanned the label on the tin. Speaking to herself, she said, “Rice pudding, not beans.” She replaced the tin back in the cupboard and repeated the process until the tin of beans was located.

She opened the tin and poured the contents into a pan, which she then placed on the hob. While this was heating up, she retrieved plates and cutlery from the drawer.

In the living room Harry and Emma heard the sounds of Rhonda preparing their meal and appeared to be happy.

After a few minutes, Rhonda appeared in the doorway, carrying the tray with the plates. Rhonda asked, “Where do you wish to eat your beans on toast?”

Emma stood up and walked to the dining table, saying, “On here, please Rhonda.” Meanwhile, Harry pressed the button on his large, reclining chair, assisting him to stand upright. He shuffled over to the dining table and took his seat.

Rhonda rested the tray and began to transfer the plates and cutlery to the table. “Have a good meal, Harry and Emma.”

“Thanks”, said Harry. As he and Emma looked at their plates, both were dumbfounded. “Rhonda?  What the bloody hell is this?”

Still smiling, Rhonda replied, “Beans on toast, as you requested.”

Harry sounded very frustrated as he said, “But these are runner beans!  They’re meant to be baked bloody beans!”

Rhonda retained her smile as she said, “You requested beans on toast.  You did not specify baked bloody means!”

Emma had a resigned look on her face as she said to Harry, “I think this may take a little getting used to.”

Rhonda continued smiling, unaware that the meal she had prepared was not to the couple’s liking.

With some tuition from Emma, Rhonda soon managed to overcome the initial problems and meals soon became well organised.  They even enjoyed some of the more adventurous meals lifted from the internet by the ever courteous Rhonda.


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