So sorry, Siri, that we don’t understand each other

A lot of guys complain that their wives don’t understand them.

I’m way more worried that Siri doesn’t understand me.

Yes, I ran out just like an Apple slave and bought the new iPhone4s, the one with the digital assistant inside whose female voice will find you an Italian restaurant or let the boss know you’re running late for a meeting.

I’m not usually an early adopter of the latest gotta-have-it gadget. I have an arm’s-length, skeptic’s relationship with gee-whiz technology. I don’t take quivery photos of Apple unboxing ceremonies and post them on Facebook.

I’ve been burned too often. I bought the Blackberry Storm, whose inept touch screen should have spent six more months in the testing lab. That was followed by the Droid, which was exemplary at every task except being a phone and holding its charge past 2 p.m.

My wife has heard me curse these Droid-ful failings often. She’s also aware that keeping my work day from running off the rails is a huge task she has no taste for. So when she saw the first iPHone ad touting Siri, this was her reaction:

“You have to get this. I’m making you get this. It’ll change your life. Or at least get you to return my phone calls every once in a while.

So I brought Siri, the sultry siren of Cupertino, into our happy home.

Thus began a dialogue of the deaf with the little lady behind the touch screen.

“Sorry, I didn’t get that.” “Sorry, I don’t understand.” “Sorry, could you try again+”

Siri is very sorry. But she just can’t decipher my Midwestern nasal twang.

Other guys post YouTube videos showing all the clever answers – dripping with postmodern irony – that Siri gives to questions such as “What’s the meaning of life?”

Does Siri say to me: “I can’t answer that now, but give me time to write a very long play in which nothing happens.”

No, I ask for a simple weather update, and she says, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”

What we have here, as Paul Newman once said famously at the end of Cool Hand Luke, is a failure to communicate.

OK, Siri, here’s a deal. I’ll work on my enunciation, if you’ll work on your literary history.

A Memo to the cool kids in jeans up at the Apple lab who write Siri’s stuff for her:

Waiting for Godot is actually a short play.

Note of correction: Anne Holmes of the Wilma Theater wrote in to admonish me that “Waiting for Godot,” when performed, is a play of average to slightly above average length.  On the written page, where I know the play best as a former French student, it is a short play, in terms of number of words. But it has many pauses and elements of stage business that elongate the experience.  I thank Anne for the correction.

You can reach me by email at csatullo@whyy.org.

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