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The problem with my PA
By Nigel Wallace
I’ve never had a Personal Assistant (PA) before. I suppose I wasn’t important enough before, but I’m important enough now, and I am having a hard time adjusting to the various hiccups that come from trusting my schedule to someone else. Or in this case... something else. That’s right, I’m still pretty unimportant, I just happen to own an iPhone, which gives me access to Siri.
When I first got my iPhone I was like every other new iPhone user out there, and I was completely blown away by the technology jump from the old BlackBerry. The loss of the physical keyboard took a lot of getting used to, but soon I realised I had to type a lot less on the device since I could now talk to the device. More importantly, I could talk to my PA, Siri.
For those who don’t know, Siri is the built-in virtual PA on the iPhone, who, based on various verbal commands, can answer questions for you or find results to your questions on-line, schedule appointments, read your messages and write your messages. Basically, “she” is the answer to this busy journalist’s prayers. Or so I thought...
The relationship began just like any other, I got to know “her” and she apparently got to know me. You see, the longer you use Siri, the more she “evolves” to understand you. I noticed this for the first time when she stopped referring to my girlfriend as “Te-nia” and began pronouncing it Tania, as I understand the spelling to be pronounced (Tan-Ya).
A few other names became easier for her to repeat as well, based on how often I asked her to dial their numbers for me, and soon she was a well oiled machine, carrying me through my day command after command.
However, getting to know someone better has its problems, and before long I realised that I was expecting much more from her than she was prepared to deliver. You see, I fell ill (cold/flu) and suddenly my raspier voice became a foreign sound to my Artificially Intelligent PA. Soon, my normally decent-functioning device was misspelling my messages, searching forever to find phone numbers and generally acting out of sorts. My assistant and I had a communication problem and after weeks of professional bliss, things were falling apart.
On a particularly busy day, stuck in traffic, I finally lost my temper with my PA and blurted out a rather eloquent stream of angst and profanity at the device. After not understanding the name of the client I was trying to contact for an interview, my PA responded to my very Bajan rant with a simple, “Your language”! That’s right, on top of everything else I was now being rebuked.
The worst part about having a love/hate relationship with your PA when “she” doesn’t really exist is that you can’t actually direct your emotion in any constructive manner. You can’t control the outcome of the relationship by imposing your will and you have to basically wait on “her” to come up to bumps in “her” own time. For those out there with actual flesh and blood PAs, I wonder how familiar this all sounds?
In any case, the technology is truly amazing and now, virus free, I am enjoying much better communication with Siri. I suppose the one benefit of her cold, unfeeling efficiency is the fact that my angered rant will never be an issue... I hope.