Trouble With Robots
Adventures in modern times
LORI OSIECKI ILLUSTRATION
It is always the way: I’m relaxing in a nice hot bathtub when the house phone rings. One second later, the cell phone wails “Dumb Ways to Die,” which is its ringtone ever since I let my granddaughter Lollipop fool with it. Both phones are on the kitchen counter at the other end of the house.
I should ignore them. But what if one of my kids is dead in a ditch and needs me right away?
So I streak to the kitchen in my bath towel and snatch up both phones at once.
I put the house phone to my ear. It is a robo-call. The robot informs me there has been an alarming rise of crime in my area but I can now protect myself with a security system at a special promotional price ...
Well. I tell this robot, in a mean voice, to never call me again. I even drop the bad-word bomb.
Then from the cell phone in my other hand, I hear “Gramma?!”
Thank you, modern technology.
Life ain’t fair. I never say bad words to actual live people – even the ones who call and tell me, in a heavy accent, that my computer is infected and I must type in a code so they’re enabled to take control and correct it. I just say “No computer here, thank you,” and hang up, because I heard that if you type in that code, they can see all your passwords and access your bank account. Not that it would be worth their effort. They would probably just feel sorry for me.
Now, my daughter, she toys with them. “Something wrong with the computer? Oh nooo! OK. I’m turning it on,” she says. But she ain’t. She is making a sandwich. “Okay. Give me the code. Speak slowly, please.” She spreads her peanut butter. “Capital P ... R ... Eeeee ... Oh my God! It burst into flames! Aaaaaeeeee!” And she hangs up and eats her sandwich.
I ain’t that mean.
But it ain’t right that a conglomerate can call my house and get a human being – naked or not – whenever they want, but when I got to call them for something important, like maybe their website don’t work, I get a robotic voicemail menu. Which I’m always supposed to pay close attention to because it has recently been changed. And then they play music, which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t interrupt every 30 seconds to tell me I could reach them faster by going to their website.
A long time ago, you might get a nice operator named Shirley who would connect you with a human person. OK, maybe Shirley wasn’t so nice. Maybe she was snotty and talked in a singsong voice. But she could hear you. And she had not recently been changed.
But don’t get me wrong. I got no problem with certain robots. I am very polite to the Roomba that cleans my floors. One day it might learn to scrub out the toilet. I am also nice to the robot that gives me driving directions – even though I would be happier with one that strapped my grandkids into their five-point car seat harnesses. (Why don’t we just use bungee cords? It would be easier and the kids would love it when you stopped short.)
But they shouldn’t speak until spoken to. Robots, I mean. They shouldn’t be calling me.
And now I’ve yelled a bad word at a baby. His name is Leekus, and he ain’t literally my grandson. His real grandma is my sister-in-law Larva. He calls her “Larma” and me “Gramma,” for reasons of his own. Being 18-months-old, he don’t do a lot of explaining.
But like any smart baby, he knows how to work FaceTime on his grandma’s smartphone. And right now, I have a view of his little face on my phone screen. I am looking up his nose.
“Gramma didn’t say that,” I lie. “It was the teevee. Did you know Larma’s got cookies? Run get one!” The view jerks around and bounces off a wall, and then I’m looking up at Larva’s ceiling fan. Evidently he threw the phone when he went for the cookie. I hear wailing in the distance.
I turn off my cell phone, turn off the ringer on the house phone and go back to the tub and turn on the hot water.
The robots and babies can wait.