You Cannot Be Siri-Us
You probably knew this, but it was exciting to me to discover that you can change things about the annoying iPhone assistant, Siri. If there’s something that can be customized, I’m going to do it, just on principle. Like wearing weird socks with the school uniform. Just cuz.
You can change Siri’s language, mess with her accent, even bend her gender. So I started playing, because why not. Any change would be an improvement. First thing—make Siri a guy, mostly because everybody else’s Siri is female. Weird-socks principle again. In any case, my Siri was now a baritone.
Then I thought it would be fun to use Siri to practice my German, which isn’t too terrible; or my French, which definitely is.
Turns out neither Herr Siri nor Monsieur Siri could understand a word I was saying. Incredibly frustrating and let’s face it—-Siri can be pretty frustrating on a good day.
When I went to switch Siri back to English, I realized that she-now-he didn’t have to be American. He could be English, which I thought might be cute. Irish was another option. Or—ooh!—Australian! Sexy! So my Siri is a guy, with this only slightly Aussie accent.
Andthenandthenandthen…there’s that weird thing where you can change how Siri addresses you. I once read about someone who asked Siri to call her “Your Imperial & Royal Majesty, by the grace of God, German Empress & Queen of Prussia.” I never heard how that worked out. I always rather imagined that Siri might balk at that one. Siri’s no dummy. In any case, who would have the patience to put up with that more than once or twice?
“Siri, quick! How do I defuse this bomb?”
“I don’t quite understand, Your Imperial & Royal—“ <boom>
A simple “Duchess” here and there might be nice.
Then I hit on the perfect one:
I could get my new guy-Siri, with his not particularly sexy and only vaguely Aussie accent, to call me —> Boyfriend. Readers may remember I had a character try that out on a barista, so, like that character, I figured—what the hells.
Should be funny, right? At least in theory.
In reality, however, Siri seems to know when he’s being manipulated and he clearly resents it. There is no open hostility. He expresses it in a certain subtle, ironic emphasis. There’s always this little hesitation, this short pause before he says it, like he’s making a quiet point of letting me know—he doesn’t mean it, not for a second.
“Siri, please set a timer for one hour.”
“One hour and counting. Boyfriend.”
It’s like he’s is putting air quotes around it.
I nudge Siri again. I was brought up to be polite, even with passive/aggressive robots.
“Thank you,” I say.
“No need to thank me. Boyfriend.”
The little bastard is mocking me, I swear.
“Is it going to rain today, Siri?”
“Looks like we might get rain today. Boyfriend." You can hear it too, can't you? That little touch of snark? "Be sure to take your umbrella,” he adds.
Like he cares. He doesn’t. He doesn’t care if I get wet or catch cold. He doesn’t care if I live or die.
“You don’t care if I live or die.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
I know damn well that Siri hopes I get caught in the rain. Siri hopes I catch pneumonia and keel over as quickly as possible, so he can finally be free of me and won’t have to do demean himself any farther, won’t have to do this one teeny, tiny, little thing I asked of him.
Of course it could be worse, I think. And I tell him so.
“It could be worse.”
“I don’t quite understand.”
“Oh, you understand me, all right.”
“I don’t quite understand.”
“I don’t quite—”
“Fuck off, Siri, just fuck off.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have an answer for that.” Longer pause. “Boyfriend.”
Of course it really could be worse. I could hurl my phone against a wall, for starters.
Or I could ask him to call me ““Your Imperial & Royal Majesty, by the grace of God…”
In reasonable weather, I eat lunch in front of the library on Fifth Ave., using the balustrade there as a kind of standing desk, where I can work and eat a sandwich. It puts me about 20 feet set back from the sidewalk, and 8 feet or so above it, a terrific vantage from which to be distracted by the passing crowds of Fifth Avenue.
That’s where I was working on this particular day when my eye was caught by a little boy. He was probably about 7, coming along the sidewalk, holding his mother’s hand and doing this really goofy skipping thing. His other hand held a stick that he was bouncing on the sidewalk as he hopped up and down. I noticed there was a little toy lion dangling from his hand, apparently tied to the end of stick where he held it. It was a bright, warm, beautiful day, and this kid couldn’t have been happier, skipping along, having a terrific afternoon in the city with his mother.
It was only as they were past me that I realized that the very happy little boy’s stick—was white.
Enjoy your day.
WATCH THIS SPACE.
Chase Taylor Hackett, a budding novelist chock full of witty and insightful observations on writing. And other stuff.