You know how, these days, people are always on the phone? Like, they’re on the phone even if they’re not actually talking to anyone on it. Usually, they’re slumped down in the chair. Their heads are down, and both hands are fully occupied, thumbs moving rapidly. They’re completely lost in their own little world, even though they’re in a room full of other people, or at a dinner table where everyone else is doing exactly the same thing.
Occasionally, they’ll look up and their vacant eyes will refocus. They’ll nod, say a sentence or two (“Sorry, sorry! It’s work. So what did I miss?”) and then the phone will ping or vibrate or flash or all three and then their heads drop again and the thumbs get back to work.
Amanda says this is why she rarely goes out to dinner with friends anymore. She says at the last one she went to, one guy arrived late, sat down and said, “Wah, long time no see, hor?” and then he pulled out his phone and didn’t say another word till dessert came.
“What was the point of showing up in the first place?” she wondered to the world at large the other morning.
I looked up from my cereal. “Who knows what the point is about anything these days? What is the point of the Kardashians?”
“Oh my God, are you still watching that show? That’s so last month!” Amanda let out a peal of laughter. “I’m watching ‘Shahs of Sunset’ now. It’s hysterical. Speaking of, who is Saffy talking to?”
I shrugged. “Someone. Prince Harry. Who cares?”
Amanda frowned as she concentrated. “It sounds like she’s got the person on speakerphone.”
From behind Saffy’s closed bedroom door, you could just make out her voice and the soothing reply of a man’s voice.
Just then, her door opened and she emerged clutching her iPhone close to her bosom. I felt a little twinge.
“Oh. My. God. I am in love with Siri!” she said, her folded hands rising rhythmically on her chest. “Listen to this!”
She tapped her iPhone and it pinged. Leaning in, she breathed in her Marilyn Monroe voice, “Siri, I love you!”
The phone pinged and a mechanical male voice replied: “You. Are. The. Wind beneath. My. Wings.”
Saffy clapped her hands in delirious joy. “Isn’t that just the best?” she crooned.
“Here, let me try,” Amanda said and grabbed the phone. Ping. “Siri, will you marry me?”
Ping. “Let’s. Just. Be friends.”
Saffy screamed with laughter.
“Typical!” Amanda later said. “I’ve been rejected even by a phone.”
Sharyn was amazed. “Wah, so ham sup one, hor, that Siri!”
Saffy says she’s been spending hours having conversations with Siri, most of which involve her asking it lots of inappropriate questions like, “What are you wearing right now?”
“I swear, he’s my new best friend!”
Which, I suppose, had to happen sooner or later. The future we’ve been seeing in movies like ‘Prometheus’ is already here. Having exhausted conversation with each other, we now interact with a computer chip the same way we should be doing with other humans.
“Siri, what appointments do I have today?”
Ping. “Let me check.”
“Siri, what’s the weather like today?”
“Siri, how do I get to North Bridge Road?”
“Siri, can I have a date with you?”
And on it goes. If they implanted Siri into a robot, Saffy would probably marry him.
Sharyn says pretty soon no one will be talking to each other because they’re all so caught up with what Siri has to say to them. “But, hor, I find Siri very cheem, leh! Why he don’t speak Singlish?”
Saffy laughed. “Oh my God, can you imagine? ‘Siri, you’re so clever!’ Ping! ‘Abahden?’”
“Anyway, I give up using Siri orredi!” Sharyn complained. “He give me far-ni answer whenever I ask him question! Sian!”
This morning, my phone rang. It was my mother.
“Darling,” she began. “I’ve just bought this wonderful new phone! It’s called an eye phone! It’s wonderful! There’s a man on it called Siri and he talks to me! Which is more than I can say about your father! I just said to him, ‘Call Jason’ and he did! Isn’t he just amazing? He even tells you where you are on a map! I am having such a good time with him. And he has such a soothing voice too. So calming.”
I’m not sure what’s more troubling: The fact that my mother has actually caught up with me technologically, or that I think she’s actually about to have an affair with a phone.