My Complicated Relationship with Siri


BY STACEY HATTON
The Kansas City Star
Columnist
January 20, 2018

Siri hates me. You know her, that sickening sweet voice inside your cell phone. I don’t know what I did to her, but my inanimate virtual assistant is evil and must be stopped!

How could she have it in for me? According to Apple, Siri is “intelligent and helpful,” but between you and me, she’s not that bright. I thought at first she was the answerer to my prayers and commands, so obviously she should have a British accent. The American English one was too bland and the Australian accent made me crave shrimp.

If someone is going to be smarter than me and be available 24/7, she should be practically perfect in every way — a veritable Mary Poppins.

Recently, I’ve concluded my Siri has a serious hearing impairment. She rarely hears my questions correctly. If she’s going to all the trouble to pull up oodles of websites or links for me, don’t you think it wise to be accurate?

I know she’s able to understand my accent. I’m from the Midwest and majored in theater. I can spit out my words better than most cowhands.

It’s gotten so bad I’ve stopped using Siri’s supposed help at home. I refuse to set up her system preferences again, unless I get a new phone or mom van. It would be dangerous not to. Let’s say I’m driving down a scary street at night and need to find the nearest police station because someone is following me (it could happen), there’s a good chance I’ll require her annoying voice of treason.

Siri messes with me in the car too.

The difference between home and car is I still have hope for the car. It’s a genius idea to be able to drive down the road and ask, “Hey, Siri … I need the closest gas station.” But instead, my electronic smarty britches will link to several locations where I can pick up some Gas-X or Beano I didn’t ask for.

Now, if this were an infrequent occurrence, I wouldn’t mention it. But with my Siri’s track record, I’m forever circling unfamiliar city blocks running on fumes and a prayer.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve actually had conversations end with me yelling at her. It’s fun to get a shame beating from a computer-generated voice for getting frustrated and raising my voice.

“Hey, Siri … how many ways can I ask the same simple question? Do you need a translator or maybe need me to speak in another octave? This is such an idiotic …”

BEEP! … “Stacey, you have the right to feel that way.”

It’s shocking when she responds to my tantrum, acting like a therapist. Thankfully, this response makes me laugh, so I’ve never thrown my phone out of the moving car — yet. But don’t push it, Siri! I just might trade you in for Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s assistant.

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History of Prank Calls

baby girl with a mobile phoneWhen I was growing up, there were two kinds of phones. One had a 500-foot tangled cord and the other spun numbers around like a Sit ’N Spin. The older rotary-style telephone took forever to dial. It was so slow that sometimes, after you dialed all the numbers, you had to quickly hang up because you forgot who you called and why.

In the 1970s, you had two glorious color choices: goldenrod and split pea soup green. They even matched your refrigerator and Tupperware! When the vacuum at our house chewed up a cord, another color spiral would appear from the basement. You were considered rich if your family had the original phone cord.

Standard phone cords were 12 inches and rarely tangled; but if you had a teenager in residence, the 25-foot extended cord was mandatory. Now your kids could giggle in the stairwell two rooms over, and you wouldn’t have to hear any part of their conversation. Helicopter parenting hadn’t been invented yet.

As a child, I dabbled in prank phone calls. I was nowhere near making it an art form; but nonetheless, it was an adequate time killer. Actually, most prepubescent kids believed they were the masters of prank calls. No one older could be that clever or daring.

My friends and I heard if you dialed a number that wasn’t in the phone book, you could call accidentally call China. We could only imagine that it would cost a fortune! So we would search for the funniest last names in the White Pages, throw around some primo dialog, and pray we could hang up before our friends listening on the other line exploded with laughter.

The next generation of prank calls occurred on cellphones the size of a miniature Schnauzer. You plugged the phone into the cigarette lighter holder in your parent’s car and if you held your head still you could keep from losing reception. If the car were running, reception would be lost and since these witty verbal exchanges were with the opposite sex, you didn’t want to chance that. Thank goodness, we didn’t have caller ID!

BlackBerrys were for adults only. It missed adolescent silliness all together.

With flip phones, toddlers added to the pranking world. Clumsily pushing buttons, they imitated parents any time they could get their sticky fingers on it. Nothing is better than taking a shower and discovering the police are leaning on your doorbell and searching your shrubbery for intoxicated oafs. The percentage of young children being able to dial 911 is much higher than one would think.

Smartphones turned up the heat with pranks. Not only could a child text anyone on your contact list, but if you were silly and thought it was a good idea to teach your children to read and write, you might find yourself explaining ridiculous texts to strangers.

“I love bacon an Imeanit!!”

Take my word — it’s not fun explaining why your child is violent about cured pork products.

Thank goodness my young kids never figured out they could do FaceTime. I can only imagine what our accountant would think if a half-dressed toddler showed up on his work computer.

And as technology history shows us, it’s only going to get worse, folks!

Lord, help us all.
(Previously printed in The Kansas City Star on March 26, 2016.)

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