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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Post # 57 First Adventures in Voice Technology


I was born in the Midwest, and moved around quite a bit as a child.  Mostly, I lived in states where the regional accent was benign.  There was very little to make fun of, as far as accent goes.  Maybe I picked up a few words that were worthy of a joke, but I’ll discuss that later.

Now I live in South Texas.  And there is a bit of an accent down here, but it isn’t really obvious.  Not unless you’re a machine, that is.

Voice Technology began creeping into our cars sometime back in the late 80’s or early 90’s.  I recall when everyone crowded around a colleague’s car because the car would talk to him.  If he left the door open, the car told him about it.  We’d go stand around his car during lunch and make him open and close the car door until the battery ran down.

Then I bought my first car with OnStar.  The OnStar lady (notice how it’s always a woman’s voice?) could tell me where I was going.  For an extra fee, she’d let me make phone calls from the car.

I don’t know how Wife felt about me inviting this new female into our home, but I do know she was against my paying out good cash just so I could call her from the car to let her know I was on my way home from work. 

I ordered the service, anyway.

And it was pretty cool.  All I had to do was remember the phone number I wanted to call and tell OnStar.  She’d dial the number for me, and soon I’d be chatting away as I drove down the highway.

It took a little encouragement to get Wife to try out OnStar.  She thought it might be dangerous to try to talk on the phone while driving (she always was ahead of the game when it comes to safety).

Finally, she gave in and gave it a try.

Wife was born and raised in South Texas.  She has the South Texas accent.  Unfortunately, OnStar doesn’t understand South Texas very well.

Wife started out fine.  The area code and first three numbers went smoothly.  Then she got to a number that OnStar couldn’t interpret.  OnStar asked wife to repeat the number.

Wife repeated the number.

OnStar repeated the wrong number and asked if that was correct.

Wife told her “No!”

OnStar asked wife to repeat the number.

The two of them carried on this same conversation eight or nine more times.

Each time, Wife’s voice got a little louder.

OnStar remained inscrutable. 

Wife got closer and louder.

OnStar continued to make demands for Wife to repeat herself.

Wife ended up traveling 30 miles an hour down the road with her mouth three inches from the mirror. Oh, and that safety thing?  She was traveling down the center stripe!

It didn’t matter how loud Wife yelled, how much she changed her accent, how slowly she spoke, or how close she got to the mirror.  OnStar refused to understand.

I don’t think Wife ever spoke to OnStar again.  OnStar knew Wife didn’t trust her, didn’t like her.  So OnStar rebelled.  OnStar pretended she wasn’t bothered by Wife’s distrust of her.  She maintained a seemingly calm demeanor throughout the episode.  Still, I think OnStar was a little shaken.  She was never quite the same after that.

I soon learned that I couldn’t trust OnStar when wife was in the car with me.  OnStar tried to make me drive through a building in downtown Dallas once so I could get to the other side.  The road ended in a T intersection, and the building was in front of me.  OnStar insisted I drive straight ahead, through the building!

Of course, Wife was with me.  I think maybe she was just being obstinate.  I may have even heard a little giggle in her voice as she kept insisting that the road was really there, all I had to do was trust her and drive straight ahead.  Across traffic.  Up the stairs.  Through the lobby.  And out onto the other side.

I learned not to ask anything of OnStar when wife was in the car.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Post #56 Time is Relative!


Well I really did understand that Red and I weren’t married.  I knew that Marryn’ Sam was a fraud.

Red and I dated throughout high school.  Then she went off to Texas Tech in Lubbock, while I went to college at Texas A&I in Kingsville.  The next semester, she went to a Junior College near home, and I stayed at A&I.  The following semester, Red went to the University of Houston, and I stayed at A&I.  She remained at the same university for two semesters in a row, so I followed her to U of H.  We continued dating while in college.

Red is smarter than I am.  And she proved it in college.  Not only did she get better grades, but she had enough sense to not lose any credits despite her multiple moves.  She even shifted majors, and was still on track for graduation after four years.

On the other hand, I managed to lose enough credits that it took me an extra year to graduate.

We dated.  We got serious.  And we talked about marriage.  Red told me she didn’t want to get married until after we had graduated.  I thought that was fine.  It would be better if we had jobs when we got married.

One day during the Fall semester, we were sitting on a bench under one of the trees on campus.  I could tell something was wrong with Red.  We talked, and I waited for her to tell me what was bothering her.  She pointed out that she was graduating after the Spring semester. 

I knew that. 

Then, she asked me when I was going to propose to her.

I was stunned.

Now, I confess that I am a person who is time challenged.  I know things are going to happen in the future.  I know they are happening right now.  And I know that some things happened in the past.  Just don’t ask me to get any more precise than that, or my circuits get overloaded.  I’ll get a blank stare on my face, look at my watch, search for a calendar, and hem and haw until I’m told when something is actually supposed to happen.

So, being stunned wasn’t so much about my needing to propose.  It was about not knowing that I was maybe supposed to have already done it. 

I had thought we would both graduate, and then I’d ask her to marry me. 

I also had no idea that engagements were supposed to be anything more than a couple of weeks long. 

How hard was it to have a wedding?  Go to church, invite your parents and two friends, and get married!

Red, bless her heart, is the queen of time.  She commands watches and calendars like a maestro commands his orchestra.  She knows within a minute how long it takes to get somewhere, what time an event is supposed to happen, and whether we’ll get lost on the way.

To her, I was already late.  Time was ticking down.  Once she explained that only one of us needed to be graduated, I was onboard.

Being a traditional kind of guy, I think I may have muttered some kind of agreement to her, and then remained silent.  She likely thought I was a lost cause.  Inside, I was trying to figure out how to get to her parents’ home four hours away to ask her dad for her hand and not be missed by her or miss classes.

I managed to drive the four hours to her folks that Saturday.  I arrived at her house, only to find it empty.  As I sat in the driveway, contemplating what to do next, Red’s parents pulled up.  It was a bit of a miracle, since they had been out of town on a trip, and I just happened to be there only minutes before they arrived.

Future Dad in Law was an intimidating man.  He was outspoken and blunt.  If he didn’t approve of something, he did not hesitate to let you know. 

After I hemmed and hawed a bit, I was finally able to tell her parents why I was sitting in their driveway.  Future Dad in Law agreed that I could marry Red. 

Another miracle!

Red and I had a favorite restaurant in Houston that was close to the university.  We went there almost every week.  So she wasn’t expecting anything when we went on our next date.

The waitress took our order and left.  Then I was down on one knee with the ring in my hand.  I asked her to marry me.

I think Red said something like “Get up!  What are you doing?”
...

And then she said “Yes!”

Time really is relative.  It seems to fly by more quickly than before. 

After 42 years of marriage and 47 years of dating, neither one of us really remembers life before we met.  Life before there was an US just really doesn't matter.