By GUINN SWEET
When I was a great deal younger, the only things that talked back to you were your children. Nowadays, every toy, stranger, automobile and kitchen utensil has something to convey to anyone who listens and others who would rather have quiet. The world is seething with idle conversation, insults and instructions, be it desired or not. Some of these things I invite into my life; some are intrusive and unwanted. Some are complete surprises, yet are talking to me as if I were an idiot cousin, come for an extended visit.
Let me illustrate.
Remember the baby doll who would say “mama” when turned on end? She progressed to one with a string and a loop hanging out of the back of her neck. When the string was pulled she said endearing words like, “I love you,” “Mama’s Baby” and “I’m hungry”. That is not enough for today’s toy makers. While doing some Christmas shopping recently, I picked up a doll who repeated every word I said to it. I soon lost patience with it as the doll repeated my every word. It got nastier and the nastier the doll became, the more insulted I got. The shouting match between me and the doll ended when the store manager took it away and shamed on me for arousing a toy to impudence. As he walked away with the doll in his arms, it looked back at me over his shoulder and repeated the exact invectives with which the manager had showered me, even to the rudeness of sticking its tongue out at me.
That’s not all. Recently I saw an advertisement for a luxury car that stated that it is so technologically advanced that it tells you when you need gas, when to check the oil pressure, in a human voice, and even shouts at slower cars ahead; telling them to go faster or get out of the way. It can park itself and even notify the police if the driver has had too much to drink and drive. I read of one that could find restrooms on long trips. I thought it was a great advance when my current car had red lights on the dash to inform me of those needs (except for the restroom info), so when I see red I stop and check everything. I can imagine that if I had a car that talked to me I would get bored with the conversation and drop off to sleep. I can’t imagine that a car would have enough funny stories to keep me interested. Another problem might arise then; I might just tell the car to shut up and it would avenge that nastiness with a trip up a telephone pole.
Even telemarketing by telephone is getting more technical. No longer is the telemarketer a person … he is now an automated voice recording, coming from Singapore or Bangladesh, etc., and often speaking with a strong accent. It is just as positive that it is making an offer to you as though it were a real, next-door neighbor. One big difference, you can’t talk back to it. In spite of the animation of the call, it doesn’t put you in touch with someone who can answer questions. You call another number to find out that you may have won a prize worth thousands; and when you call that number you haven’t won anything, but you can buy something you don’t need for more than what it’s worth!
Over my lifetime, evolution of technology has brought conversational insults from most of the apparati that fill our lives under the guise of convenience. For instance, one of our kids gave us a new alarm clock and another gave us a talking scale for Christmas. The scale was meant to be a great assistance with its voice-animated mention of our weight. Why would we need that when all we have to do is look floorward to SEE the reading? The idea is that since our vision is dimming, we don’t have to look to see our weight, we only have to listen to hear an apology for its information. The first time I weighed on it, it apologized for the high reading. Soon it stopped apologizing and I thought it was broken, but I was wrong. This morning, it shouted, “Look at that weight!” then, “I am waiting for an apology from you, you fat slob!”
The alarm clock is behaving similarly. If I don’t get up immediately and silence it, I am awakened with, “Get out of bed, you lazy pig! If you didn’t want to get up, why did you set me last night and wake me up?” I long for the raucous BRRAANG! Of the old fashioned alarm clock.
But not to worry, when things get too loud, I will just turn off my hearing aid!