Recent developments, a.k.a. Mother’s Day, have gotten me to thinking about this whole “mother” thing and how I may be reaping the rewards of unmotherly selfishness. As it happens, I have for the last several years, given up “my” cellphone upgrades so that my offspring can go from phone to phone in a dizzying upward spiral. They finally topped out with iPhones, and suddenly unmotherly envy reared its ugly head.
I wanted one.
I wanted one so badly that I kept my last upgrade. Yes, I ignored the Boy’s pleas for a new phone and marched off to Verizon for my very own iPhone. (Besides, I knew he had an upgrade in April). This phone turned out to be the iPhone 4 “S,” a phone much smarter than I am. I do not care, because it allows me to Google “contents of Pernod” at a restaurant and settle an argument, and I’m always willing to learn some stuff.
But the “S” part means that my phone has, in Douglas Adams terms, “a genuine people personality.” This comes in the form of “Siri,” who is a kind of Hal Light. In fact, if you ask Siri to sing you a song, she will give you the creepy rendition of “Daisy, Daisy” that figured prominently in the ending of “2001, A Space Odyssey.” Apparently I am the only person on earth who finds this disturbing.
Anyway, if you have watched the commercials for this phone, you see Samuel L. Jackson pretty much letting Siri run his life. She gives him recipes, wine recommendations, and even reminds him to light the candles for dinner, because apparently Samuel L. is not capable of doing this on his own. This rather diminishes my admiration for the man, but I would like to know how he got on Siri’s good side; I’m telling you, she hates me, and if she is not actively trying to kill me, she is making a spirited attempt to make my life difficult.
It all started with me asking her to remind me to call my mother after work. She precedes everything she says with a couple of musical tings, so I hear, “Ting-ting. Would you like me to remind you to haul your brother?” No, Siri, I want to CALL MY MOTHER. “Ting-ting. Okay, you want me to remind you to install some cover.” Very slowly and distinctly, I say, “Siri, I want you to remind me to Call. My. Mother.” “Ting-ting. Wall up your lover, right.”
I say a Bad Word. Siri replies, “There’s no call for that!” I forget to call my mom.
And ever since, it’s been a continual struggle. In a strange city, I ask Siri to direct me to a nearby drugstore. I am sent to a CVS in another town. When I ask her for population data on the city we’re visiting, I get a petulant, “Ting-ting. I will have to look that up for you.” Then she sulks.
She can’t even get my name right. It took my son’s phone no time at all to learn his name, but my phone thinks I’m named Nancy. To be fair, I get called Nancy a lot, so often, in fact, that I’m thinking of changing my name. Apparently Abraham Lincoln’s mother was Nancy Hanks, and even people who don’t know this fact somehow put those names together. Now, my phone is doing it. I think she takes a perverse delight in calling me “Nancy,” too. Her voice is pretty smug.
Then there’s the matter of all those little speech-to-text features that I am increasingly afraid to use. If I ask Siri to send my Beloved a text message, I am likely to wind up ordering take-out Chinese from a restaurant in Kansas City. I once texted the hospital’s wait-time number, and sent Daughter #1 a message that was meant for Daughter #2, causing a certain amount of angst until it was sorted out. When I dictated some essay notes to Siri, they came out as a table that could only be read by MS Excel, and I didn’t even know that was possible.
So I have a phone that I really love, with lots of cool features, including the ability to play Words With Friends in the dentist’s office, but there’s a snake in the garden. I know that, under all the helpful Internet access and email functionality, Siri is lurking, waiting her chance to route me home through the St. Laurence Seaway, order 700 pounds of oysters from Tangier Island, or tell my students that I’ve moved to Mongolia and don’t expect them to turn in their papers.
If I’d been a “real” mother and kept my ancient and functional LG, I would not be in this fix. As it is, if you get a text message from me saying that you can have my shoes, or that I’ve run off with someone’s Lexus, just realize that I TOLD Siri to ask you for the news, and explain that I’m running to lunch with my cousin from Texas.