It was a wonderful week-end morning and the family was lounging about the house as usual. The husband tried to stir us into action, but his attempts were feeble. He was too happy to be sitting and playing chess on his laptop or looking at some of the excellent things that people have to say on Facebook. Even if one were the strapping, active kind, one look at the daughter in her pajamas, hair looking straggly with a well-worn Harry Potter book in hand, would set you down firmly against taking action and let things be. The son and I were sending toy cars zipping down the highway in the living room. Even Time seemed reluctant to move on.
I must pluck you from this torpidity and show you what happens when the husband thinks we are not doing anything. Take for example a drive in the car : Point A to Point B. There we are, all buckled up like good citizens and looking out the window dreaming or thinking about something. The daughter is most probably thinking of the book she was reading last or the TV show she was watching. The son drinks in the welcome sight of cars and trucks on the road, like an elephant out on a saunter in New York City. I am either looking out the window enjoying the scenery or fiddling about with something in my handbag (there is always a real estate issue in my handbag). The husband casts one sideways glance and I know what is coming even before the words have left his mouth. He takes it upon himself to employ our time better. He shoves a cellphone in my hand and says, “Look at the alternate routes to get to Point B.”
I was naive enough to do this before, but not anymore. “What is wrong with this route?” I ask.
“Nothing, there may be traffic in this route.”
I don’t see any traffic snarls up ahead, so I refuse to check out alternate routes. To this, he adds, okay check the current route for traffic and see whether we need to change our route. I have now figured out the only thing that shoots this line of thought in the bud. “Shall I drive?” I ask innocently. He gasps and clasps his steering wheel with love and says no more.
I saw a similar glance now, when he looked up from the laptop. I put on a seriously busy face and rushed the toy cars about like nothing before and made a fake police car siren and weaved the police car through the traffic. The husband saw that there being no need for spurring me to activity just yet, went after the daughter, who still was looking blissful in her pajamas. “Check the weather forecast for the next few days.” , he told her.
A few minutes later, I heard a loud conversation going on with Siri. The daughter thinks Siri is hard of hearing, uses an ineffective hearing aid, and does a fair bit of lip reading to understand her. She shouts out her questions at it in slow, exaggerated mouth movements.
SIRI. WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING.
Siri is patient with her usually and answers nonsense or picks from links on the web. A little while later, I heard her boom out that the temperature is going to be in the 80’s and very warm in the coming days. But the conversation with Siri was not over yet. She was going on with it like a long lost friend marooned on an island and dying for her company.
WHY. DO. YOU. THINK. SO. SIRI.
It is at times like this that I doubt the machine learning algorithmic part. For Siri’s response was “You look at things that are there and ask ‘Why?’. I dream of things that aren’t there and ask ‘Why not?’”
This response was clearly too philosophical for the daughter, for she asked Siri to not get ‘technical’ on her.
The husband, in the meanwhile, is now curious to see how Android performs for the same thing and whips out his Android device. An all-out Android Vs. Apple war is set to take place in the living room. Poor Android now not only has to compete against Siri, but has the added disadvantage of a South Indian accent thrown at it in normal conversational tones.
“What is the temperature like in the next few days?” asks the husband.
Android disappoints him by saying that it cannot understand the question. A few more tries get him vague answers. “What question did you ask Siri for the temperature?” asks the husband of the daughter. The daughter shakes her head and says he is going about the whole thing in a wrong manner. “You know? Warm up to it first, get friendly, and then ask the questions. You have a better chance of getting the right answers.” she says firmly.
I think I have enough philosophy to last me a few days and take off for a shower. Get friendly with Siri. My foot.