Friday, April 20, 2012

The New Call of the Wild

While sitting in the front passenger seat of my friend’s spanking new set of wheels yesterday, he announced that he needed to call his wife. Simultaneously, he wanted to show me just one example of his vehicle’s incredible technological prowess—an extra perk if you will. He informed me that he could now place the call without punching numbers into anything, or even locating a stored name in his cell phone address book. No, this phone call of his could be made exclusively with voice commands uttered in the general direction of the car’s dashboard.

I listened as my friend said, “Call.” Awaiting a response, he gazed intently at the magical dashboard. The ghost in the machine was, however, uncooperative and, evidently, couldn’t decipher this introductory salvo of his—the one that was supposed to get this hands-off phone call business rolling. It responded all right, but with words to the effect that it was unable to make heads or tails of the command. I don’t know why, but it sort of reminded me of a Marine sergeant chiding his underlings: “I can’t hearrrrr you!”

After a few more unsuccessful attempts, I said to my friend, “Why don’t you just place the call the old fashioned way?” But he would have none of it. “Call,” he said. The obstinate ghost in the machine again told him something just wasn’t kosher. “Call.” “I can’t hearrrrr you!” “Call!” “I can’t hearrrrr you!” “Call!!!” “I can’t hearrrrr you!”

After about half a dozen of these “Call” commands getting louder and louder and leading to dead ends each and every time, I excused myself. My friend, who is pushing eighty, was clearly under the bewitching spell of a computer chip somewhere in his car's dashboard. Were we both in a Twilight Zone episode? As I walked away from the car, I heard yet another “Call” of the wild, and then another one after that. I haven’t spoken to my friend since, but I sure hope that call went through and that he didn’t, in fact, enter the Twilight Zone for real.

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