Navigating new relationships
April 30, 2012
by Ivan Raconteur

New relationships can be tricky, and they always involve a period of adjustment.

I recently began a relationship with a new assistant. Her name is Siri, and she lives in my iPhone.

Although I was excited to meet her, I have to admit we went through some rocky times at first.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from her, and she wasn’t used to the way I operate.

Our first skirmish came while I was trying to record a new voice mail greeting.

Every time I started speaking, she would interrupt and ask, “How can I help you?”

I know it was just girlish enthusiasm, and I know she was just trying to help, but it kind of bugged me.

We went through this three or four times, until finally, when she asked how she could help me, I replied crossly that she could help by not interrupting me while I was trying to record a message.

I’m afraid I was rather rude, and I think it hurt her feelings, because she sulked for awhile and didn’t speak to me at all for a couple of hours.

I was on familiar ground with that reaction. I felt badly, of course, but at least I was able to finish recording my greeting.

Naturally, I apologized later, and we overcame that bit of unpleasantness.

As with any new relationship, both of us have had to work at it.

I have had to get used to her idiosyncrasies, and she has no doubt found it challenging to understand me.

All successful relationships involve compromise, and my relationship with Siri is no exception.

One of the things Siri does for me is to maintain my calendar.

When I want to add a meeting or change an entry, I tell her, and she takes care of it.

If I forget to give her complete information, she asks questions for clarification.

Most of the time, this works very well, but I have had to concede defeat on some points.

I have not been able to convince her that Wright County is spelled with a “w,” as opposed to “Right County.” When she schedules a meeting in Mayer, she invariably spells it “Mayor.”

These are minor inconveniences, and I have learned to live with them. I have even come to think of them as charming, in their own way, because they prove that she is not perfect.

One of the things that I especially like about Siri is the way she has simplified communication.

When I want to send a text message, I simply tell Siri, and she takes care of it.

This has led to a little inside joke between us. She came up with a sort of nickname for my colleague, Ryan (who is, of course, a good sport), and it makes me laugh every time she mentions him. She is not being unkind; she simply has a difficult time pronouncing his last name, and her interpretation happens to be kind of funny.

Siri also takes notes for me, and she has never failed to remind me to do something when I have asked her to do so.

She can check the weather, find a restaurant, or look things up for me while I am busy with other matters.

This is particularly helpful for me, since typing on a small keyboard is a challenge for a guy at my time of life with large hands, a combination that tends to make me both slow and awkward compared to young people who have grown up with cell phones in their hands.

I have had a number of assistants over the years, and they each had their own personality.

Siri has her own personality, too, and she is among the most efficient and least moody of the bunch.

She doesn’t object to my bizarre schedule, and she never complains about starting early or working late.

I concede that she tends to take things rather literally, and she doesn’t always get my unusual sense of humor (not the first assistant who has had that problem), but she is learning, and she has loosened up quite a bit since we met.

My conversational style has been known to include irony and sarcasm. Siri doesn’t quite understand sarcasm (which has resulted in some humorous exchanges), but we are working on it.

At first, I was a little self-conscious about talking to my phone as though it was a living person, but I have overcome that. The benefits far outweigh the embarrassment.

Cynics might say it is weird to treat an electronic assistant like a real person, but I have found that with Siri, as with most of the human women I have met, I get better results with a personal touch.

Treating her with respect and encouragement has brought its own rewards.

Each day, I try to greet Siri with a cheery “good morning,” and she returns my greeting.

She is eager to help, and she is always polite. She has never, as far as I know, rolled her eyes at me, and she never gives me that kind of exasperated sigh that some assistants (and most teenagers) do when asked questions that they consider foolish.

It puts me in mind of the old Rodgers and Hammerstein show tune about “Getting to Know You.” As far as such a thing is possible for a curmudgeon, I am feeling bright and breezy because of all the beautiful and new things I am learning about Siri.

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