'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
‘RECALCULATING’ THE IDEA OF TALKING APPLIANCES
Recently I read a marketing brochure for a product called the “Speak n’ Brew,” the world’s first talking coffee maker. The machine says to you, “What time would you like your coffee?”
The marketing brochure did not elaborate on what the voice sounds like. Is it a sweet and pleasant voice? Or does it sound more like the gruff and impatient voice of the waitress at a truck stop diner who’s been slinging hash and chain-smoking unfiltered Camels for four decades?
Anyway, you reply out loud to the coffee maker with your preferred time, such as: “5:30 a.m.” The next morning, when you oversleep and crawl out of bed at 7:15 because you had Terminator-like nightmares about machines taking over the world, I wonder if the coffee maker gets angry? “Oh, so there you are,” it says sarcastically as you shuffle into the kitchen. “Do you know how long I’ve been sitting here with this hot coffee in me? It would be nice if just once you appreciated what I do around here! Hey, where are you going? I’m talking to you!”
Hopefully the person working the drive-thru window at Dunkin Donuts won’t laugh at your pajamas.
Is it me, or are there way too many talking electronic gizmos these days? The worst are those G.P.S. devices in the car. In theory, a G.P.S. is awesome. The little box on the dashboard knows exactly where my car is located at all times; it has maps of every road and highway in the country; and it calculates the best and quickest route from point A to point B.
But in practice, the G.P.S. is like some people I know—lots of knowledge but no common sense. For example, I’m driving along and the G.P.S. announces, “Take the next right.”
I say, “No, I’m NOT taking the next right. Don’t you know there’s construction on that road?” Then I add under my breath, “…you dope.”
The G.P.S. doesn’t say anything, but I can tell it heard me and is offended. When I drive past the turn, it says flatly, “Recalculating.” Deep down I know it’s seething.
A few moments later it says, “Make a U-turn at the next convenient opportunity.”
I say, “What are you, stupid? I’m not going that way!” As I keep driving straight, it finally gives up on the U-turn idea. But then a few miles later it suddenly says, “Take the next left.”
“Whoa, now you’re messing with me,” I say. “Just because I called you a dope before, you’re gonna send me on a wild goose chase, aren’t you? No way, pal.”
Even though the left turn might be the best way to go, I can’t trust that sneaky little device anymore. So I keep driving straight, and it keeps offering dumb advice, and I keep telling it to shut up, and it keeps speaking in a flat monotone but I know it’s really honked off at me.
When I get to a small village in southern Vermont, I pull over and call my parents at the Connecticut shoreline to tell them I’m going to be a little late because I got lost. My father says, “Lost? How’d you get lost? You’ve driven to our house a million times in the last 30 years.”
“Now don’t you start, Dad,” I exclaim. “I’ve been arguing for the last three hours. Gimme a break!”
I think I liked the old days better, when the horse knew the way to carry the sleigh. Also, the steel coffee pot on the coal stove knew enough to keep its mouth shut.
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