Random conversations with Robby the Robot in my daughter's bedroom
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Random conversations with Robby the Robot in my daughter's bedroom

Sep 03, 2023

May 27—I was getting Arlie ready for bed — past the part where I'd tucked her in and kissed her on both cheeks but prior to adjusting her socks for the fifth time while simultaneously answering existential questions — when the elephant stamped into the room.

He was wearing a bowler hat and smoking a polished calabash pipe. This was especially difficult for the elephant because elephants have no digits at the ends of their pancake feet, leaving our visiting pachyderm to grope clumsily at the pipe every time it wanted to take a drag.

"My name is Duke Barnithemus Tellimodo Effidum Smith," the elephant told us, enunciating each word in a Scottish accent. As Duke spoke, he dropped his pipe. It clattered against the hardwood.

"Daddy, why's there a random elephant in my room?" Arlie wanted to know.

"I don't know, Arlie," I said. "Why do YOU think there's an elephant in your room?"

My 7-year-old daughter stared blankly at the ceiling for a moment or two, then shrugged.

"OK," I said, turning back to our guest, who had — in the brief time I'd been looking elsewhere — transformed himself into a near-perfect, 1:1 scale replica of Robby the Robot from the 1956 science fiction classic, "Forbidden Planet."

"You look different, Duke," I said, feigning surprise at the change.

"For your convenience ...," he belted in his monotone baritone, lights flashing from the various electronic doodads lining the interior of the transparent dome acting as his head, "... I am monitored to respond to the name Robby. Now, would you mind fetching my Nintendo Entertainment System controller? I fancy a game of The Legend of Zelda."

"Controller? You mean your pipe?"

But as I knelt to fetch the dropped object, I found Robby was correct; rather than a wooden pipe smoldering on the floor of my daughter's room, I retrieved a classic, two-button NES controller. The 7-foot-tall robot struggled to grip the small, rectangular device between his tuning-fork fingers, and once he'd managed it, didn't seem to know what to do with the thing.

Over my shoulder, Arlie had questions.

"Why is that random robot here now, Daddy?"

"His name is Robby," I told Arlie. "And why do YOU think Robby's here?"

"I don't know. It's so random."

I snapped my fingers and pointed at my daughter. When I turned back to Robby — who was now wearing a pair of Mickey Mouse ears — a battered saxophone had replaced the NES controller.

"Robby, you're pretty good with the English language, right?"

"Yes," he said mechanically. "And if you do not speak English, I am at your disposal with 187 other languages along with their various dialects and sub-tongues."

"Daddy, what's a sub-tongue?" Arlie wanted to know.

"English is fine, Robby. Can you define a word for me?"

"Yes, Adam. What is the word?"

"Random," I said.

Arlie started giggling.

Lights flashed across Robby's face.

"Pardon me, sir. Random?"

"Yes, Robby. Random."

The circular antennae flanking his dome spun quickly. He emitted a sound very similar to a dot matrix printer at work.

"Random. Adjective. Definition one: made, done, happening, or chosen without method or conscious decision. Definition two: unfa..."

I help up a hand.

"That'll do, Robby. Thank you."

I turned back to Arlie, snuggled in her bed with a look of confusion on her face.

"You see," I told her. "That's what random means. So, you don't need to keep describing everything using that word. Because most things aren't random."

Arlie thought about this for a second, then laughed.

"Daddy, you are so random," she said. I sighed and turned to roll my eyes at Robby, but he'd already vanished in a puff of purple smoke, leaving only a small pile of wooden nickels and a pork pie hat in his wake.

"Figures," I said. But, of course, it really didn't.

ADAM ARMOUR is the news editor for the Daily Journal and former general manager of The Itawamba County Times. You may reach him via his Twitter handle, @admarmr.