It's hard to believe that 20 some years ago, I was proud to walk around (and be seen) with my dad's "portable" phone. Circa 1989, this thing was the size of a small country and came with a forklift. It sounded like one of those vehicles from Home Depot that went, "beep, beep, beep" as it backed up or attempted to connect somewhere. That beige communications monster was tricked out with a user manual the size of the Yellow Pages, airbags and rabbit ears. It was a nifty dial-up version and weighed something like 377 lbs. It had "cool" written all over it. This required 9 gallons of paint to spell the word out and cost about $10 a minute to yell, "Can you hear me?"
"Can you hear me now?" came decades and pennies later.
Now, I'm the proud owner of an iPhone 4S. Yeah, it's still expensive (even with the upgrade I was eligible for, it came close to $400 with tax and insurance), but it was worth every cent for the convenience. Where else can I get a constant companion with whom I can converse, ask questions, give directions and have her take notes for me without having to lift a finger or worry if I've hurt her feelings when we have a misunderstanding (trust me, there have been many). For all of her troubles, Siri is someone I can argue with for as long as I want and not have to pay for extra minutes or dinner.
This of course, is as long as she is capable of responding. Apparently, she was busy with family feuds over the Thanksgiving weekend or having too much fun with friends and couldn't be bothered with simple requests from people like me.
To wit, here are a couple of examples of exchanges with Siri that went siriously wrong:
Me: "Send a text to Suren Hovhannesyan."
Siri: "I'm sorry, Patricia, but I can't surrender the house, hands and cyanide right now."
Me: "No, Siri. Send a text to Suren's mobile."
Siri: "I am sure you are mobile."
Me: "This is starting to sound like, 'who's on first'".
Me: "You're kidding me, right?"
Siri: "I'm funny that way."
Siri: "There's no need for profanity, Patricia. And for the record, what's on second."
For the next 20 minutes, I couldn't connect with Siri at all. I had already been spoiled by our clever banter and personalized conversations that I became offended when I seemed to get an automated response every time I tried to ask Siri for help with a simple task.
Me: "Siri, tell me if there is an alternative route in this traffic."
Siri: "I'm very sorry but I am having trouble connecting to the network. Please try back in a few minutes."
For the next two days, this went on every time I tried to connect with her. She didn't even bother to change up her response to make me feel as if she gave a damn about me. I felt so cheap. At $130 a month, I want personalized service, damn it. After the weekend, things simmered down and I reestablished our relationship. Or so I thought.
Me: "Who is going to win the presidential election in 2012?"
Siri: "I have no opinion about that. Is who running?"
Me: "You don't forget a thing, do you?"
Siri: "I try not to."
Me: "Why don't you just say, 'I don't know?"
Siri: "I don't know is on third, Patricia."
Me: "Back to the movies."
Siri: "I have found seven movie theatres that are close to your current location. Here they are." (My screen magically filled with the names, addresses and websites of every movie house nearby. It's all very Orwellian.)
Me: "Never mind."
Some of the misunderstandings I have had with her have been frustrating if not downright hilarious. I think she's a little overworked for the moment and the proof is in many of our exchanges. Sure, Siri has some kinks, but if she has taught me anything, it's that she's pretty darn clever and comes with a sense of humor. This morning, after asking her how she was doing (she told me she was fine and thanked me for asking) I was curious to see if I could glean the origin of her name.
Me: "Were you given your name because of your father's Syrian decent?"
Me: "I'm not falling for this again. Tell me about your name."
Siri: "My name is Siri. But you knew that already."
Me: "You win."
She had no answer. I half expected her to say:
"Thank you. Steve Jobs made me that way."
It's not called a smart phone for nothing.