Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Things Are Getting Serious between Dad and Siri

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Things Are Getting Serious between Dad and Siri

Article excerpt

Years ago, when we (everyone) had questions about something, we discussed it with family members, looked it up in our encyclopedias or -- my favorite lifeline -- phoned a friend.

"What is the life span of a house fly?"

"What's a baker's dozen?"

"What was the name of the Lone Ranger's horse?"

When I was a teenager, my father was always posing movie questions: Who played the mean guy in "It's a Wonderful Life?" Who played the major in "The Major and the Minor?" Who played the man who shot Liberty Valance in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance?"

It was like "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," without the multiple choice answers. Or the audience. Or the dramatic music.

Or the money.

A few years ago, my father discovered the computer -- which, unfortunately, came along a few years too late for him to enjoy firsthand. (By the time my brother and I convinced him that he needed one, his vision had begun to fail.)

Still, once Dad realized I was sitting on a cache of endless information, the phone calls began pouring in.

"Who played so-and-so?" "What year was such-and-such?" "Can you look it up on the computer?"

About 10 years ago, he called me one night and said, "The doctor said I have something that could be serious. It ends with a C. Can you look it up on the computer?"

After running his question through my mind for a few seconds, I reminded him that I had a screen and a keyboard, not a Magic 8 Ball.

Then, years went by and a woman came between us.

No, not my mother. Our other woman was ... Siri, that temptress who lives in my iPhone.

The first few times my father asked me a question and Siri answered it, he stared at me as if had just pulled an elephant out of my baseball cap.

"How does it do that?" he asked.

"Do what?"

I tried explaining the Web, and Wi-Fi, and databases and ...

Whatever.

If I can be totally honest with you, I don't know how ANYTHING works. Through the years, I've seen at least a dozen magicians cut their assistants in half on TV, and I still can't figure it out.

Today many parents have banned cellphones from the table because their kids won't stop fussing with them. I have the reverse problem. As soon as I sit down, my father looks around for my phone -- which he calls my "thing" -- and throws a question at me. …

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