There are two women living in my car. One is Siri, the Apple voice assistant who floats around in the ether, summoned like a genie simply by saying her name.
This is the sort of thing that would astound and frighten people from the Middle Ages.
“What black arts are you wielding?” the medieval scholar would say, “that you may summon spirits from the air by name? Hast thou given thine soul to a malevolent god who promises riches on Earth in exchange for the very essence of your mind and heart?”
“No, that’s Google. This spirit is from Apple.”
“The symbol of the tree of knowledge, the partaking of which was the cause of original sin? The tree through which the serpent slithered, hissing his cozening words?”
“You know, you’ve outlived your usefulness. I’m dropping you from the rest of this column. Also, you smell.”
There, he’s gone. Let me open a window. Whew. Anyway, since we’re all going hands-free on Thursday, you now must talk to your phone or your car or both to respond to texts and phone calls. It is the law. And no, “hands-free” does not mean you can operate your phone with your elbows.
You can do this! People have suffered worse travails. In the early days of the auto, people had to pull over, write a reply on a small piece of paper and wrap it around the leg of a messenger pigeon they kept in the trunk. Then the “claw-free” rule came into effect, and people had to learn to drive without communicating with others for the duration of their journey.
Where was I? Right, driving off the road because I was looking at the screen on my dashboard I use to conform with hands-free rules. The screen has its own female voice. When the phone is plugged in, Siri answers. If there’s no phone, the car’s female spirit responds, and she is never in a good mood.
The other day I said, “Send a message to Natalie,” thinking I was talking to Siri, and an unfamiliar voice answered:
Really: Excuse me, as if I’d mused aloud about how hot the car in the next lane looked. I do not like the idea of another hands-free-enabling voice built into my car’s circuits, constantly ignored in favor of the hip snarky Apple phone voice; she will get sullen and resentful, and should I ask her for directions, she’ll snap:
“Why don’t you ask Siri where to go? She seems to have all the answers. I’m just sitting here monitoring your oil pressure and keeping you from rear-ending the car in front of you, For all the thanks I get. When was the last time you took me out for a wash? You washed me all the time when you first got me.”
If this voice learns that I occasionally take an Uber, it’s probably going back to the dealership for an annulment because it didn’t agree to enter an “open relationship.”
These are minor complaints. Hands-free chatting and messaging is fantastic. But the law will not make a whit of difference to some people, who will continue to text and drive because it is very important to add LOL and like someone’s Instagram post while driving 45 miles per hour through a school zone.
There is only one good reason to be looking down while you are driving: A tarantula has crawled onto your lap and you are unsure what to do.
“Hey, Siri, how do I kill a tarantula?”
Oh, not you, too.