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.