Okay Groogle

This was the result of my search for “flipping the bird.”

I think we’ve all had our share of disappointing relationships and breakdowns this year, and I’d like to share mine – with Google home.

I admit, I’m not google’s sexiest, most imaginative relationship partner.  My questions tend to be simple and repetitive, relating to three specific daily tasks and chores – music, the weather, and timers for cooking – “okay, google, what’s the temperature?”  “Ok google, set a timer for twenty minutes.”  I’m not one of those people trying to keep the relationship alive by doing my part to seem interesting – oooh, tell me about Benford’s law.  Occasionally I spice things up by asking something typically dumb as a part of dinnertable conversation – e.g., how many states have a county named Jefferson?  (A lot.)

This used to be … okay.  Google and I had an understanding.  But over the past couple of months, our relationship has really taken a nosedive.  I ask, “Okay google” (sorry, but every question needs that preface to activate it) “what’s the temperature?”  Seems pretty straightforward, right?  That five-word question worked for years.  Only now I get an answer about the theoreticals and hypotheticals about what temperature is, and how it’s measured.  Adding swearwords like, “no, google, what’s the temperature outside my f-cking house right now” doesn’t get me anything more edifying.  Sometimes I get Sorry, I don’t understand the question.  Google.  A five year old could understand that question.  You’re just trolling me.  Same thing with “the weather.”  I used to be able to ask google, what’s the weather?  And she’d tell me the forecast.  Now I get some historical-science explanation of what weather is.  Google, we both know that you know the exact coordination of my house.  Which do you think is more likely — that I want to know if it’s going to rain today, or that I want an in-depth discussion of how weather forecasting works?

We’ve had a similar breakdown on the musical front. I ask google to “play me some Bill Evans” and I could get anything.  ANYTHING.  Veggie tales or Weird Al.  Is google having a breakdown?  (I mean, I’m boring.  I suppose it’s possible I’ve driven the thing mad.) I now have to take a deep breath, calm myself, and ask a very crisp, cheery, precise, “okay, google, please tell me the temperature outside my house right now in (my city and state.)”.  As opposed to, I guess, the surface temperature on Mars?  The other day I said, “ok google, are you even listening to me?” and she said “well, you know….”  And that felt pretty true and also relatable.  She’s probably not.  She’d probably like to move to a different family with questions about Boolean algebra or Mozart’s finest symphony.

Have you had any funny google or Amazon Alexa moments?  Yes, yes, I know, they’re the Devil’s handiwork and inviting surveillance and the Skynet into our house. But the thing is, we’re too late, those things are already here.  So, I feel like I should be able to mumble “Okay google, set an alarm for fifteen minutes” while I’m warming up a quiche, and then check on that alarm and have google answer the question of how many minutes remain rather than primly point out to me that there’s no alarm set, that the word I was looking for was timer – I should have set a timer for fifteen minutes, and … all right then, how many minutes are left on that timer?  Here’s a hint: saying “okay, fine, you twat, how many minutes are left?!” won’t get me a useful answer.  Thank goodness we’re not married.

  • Alityke says:

    Alexa kept interrupting me so I yelled ALEXA SHUT THE FECK OFF! Never spoken since!

  • Musette says:

    omg. O.M.F.G.
    I . Shit, March. It’s 10:33am, CST in the United States of America and I am supposed to be working on this quote. Instead… here I sit, guts and shoulders heaving, tears STREAMING down my face, laughing like a lima bean.

    You FIEND!

    xo your FRIEND.

  • Dina C. says:

    Since my hubster works for gov’mint intelligensia he’s deeply suspicious of all those @#$%^^& spy devices and so we have none of them in our house. Your troubles getting a straight answer out of it are hilarious though. Thanks for a morning smile.

    • Musette says:

      I read somewhere that more than a few people high up in the high-tech world do not (and will not allow their children to) use the gadgets they create. Doubtless, when Skynet becomes completely self-aware it won’t matter – it’ll get us all – but for now, a little autonomy isn’t a bad thing, imo. xoxo

  • Portia says:

    Hey March,
    Jin hates Siri because she’s racist and won’t understand his very slight accent. It was quite amusing at first but now it really seems like she is antagonistic towards him.
    I use it on my phone but it so often does things that are not asked for or gets them wrong that I prefer to do it myself.
    I can’t even imagine having such a thing in the house. It would probably drive me the very last inch up the wall.
    Portia xx

    • March says:

      I have LITERALLY SAID OK SIRI F*CK YOU so many times to my phone, now she won’t talk to me any more. And she IS racist. That is, she can’t manage any kind of accent, there are tons of YouTube videos devoted to that, and I have flat-standard American English so what the hell. And yeah! Maybe she’ll answer your question, or maybe she’ll order you takeout from the nearest diner or something else not what you ordered. I was trying to get directions to my CPA’s office last weekend and … honestly, I’m not at all sure WHAT she was trying to give me, but I didn’t think I wanted it! Like that scene from Fleabag where she spices up their relationship by pretending she’s an assassin. (Hint: don’t do that.)

  • Cinnamon says:

    A fun read. Had to look up DuckDuckGo and Benford’s Law (always interesting to be pointed in directions you haven’t gone before). I don’t use Siri or anything like it (my son does) and it took me ages to get on FB when it was more of a ‘thing’. So, I guess I’m low-tech. I do very much appreciate e-books though based on being able to load some and go, and then be able to choose among things (on one device) rather than finding the book you’re toting around has ceased to be interesting.

  • Undina says:

    I don’t use anything voice-activated, so no stories to share, but I wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post! Thank you for the smile.

  • Tara C says:

    I can’t even fathom attempting to use Google verbally, I’m a tech idiot. Plus I use Duck Duck Go to avoid being tracked. I do use Google maps on my phone though, what a lifesaver for someone like me who couldn’t navigate their way out of a paper bag.

  • taxi says:

    Try “weather 5-digit-zip-code.” Works for me. I also use Duck Duck Go as my main search engine because it doesn’t track users. Still go to google for driving directions or earth pics though.