If you know anyone who has an iPhone 4S, you’re probably hiding in your cubicle at work or in the garage at home, hoping the iPhoner won’t find you.
Being a recent purchaser of this latest Apple-built marvel, it’s hard to avoid approaching strangers at the super market, thrusting my iPhone in their faces, exhorting them to, “Say something to Siri!”
Siri is the name of the digital, female-voiced wonderment in the phone that is capable of producing mood swings in its owners with alternating bouts of amazing, magic-making feats, interspersed with fits of frustrating mistakes, gibberish and curious gaps in its greatness.
One can spend hours with Siri, asking her questions (notice it has become a she by now?) and making requests.
I began my Siri experience feeling only slightly self-conscious about it by saying into the phone, “What is Southwest Florida?” Siri responded with, “How about a web search for Southwest Florida?” Gee thanks Siri, but I could have done that myself.
Next I asked my digital phone friend, “What’s the best pizza place in Southwest Florida?”
Siri responded, “Don, I can’t search near businesses. My apologies. How about in Marco Island?” She gave me nine pizza restaurants.
The subject of pizza reminded me of mushrooms, so I said to Siri, “Sautéed mushrooms.” The magic phone lady answered, “David Rush,” the name of a friend on Marco Island who has no known mushroom relationship. I tried “sautéed mushrooms” again and Siri sent me a list of 24 restaurants on Marco, at least five of which closed long ago.
Siri’s record of pinpoint answers is spotty. The Apple people say in the literature that Siri gets better at this when she gets accustomed to the unique voice of the phone owner.
I noticed she began addressing me as “Don” after about four messages. Good job. But when I said to Siri, “Please phone my wife,” she responded, “Which wife? Chris Duffy, Maggie Paul or Wes Sargenson.” Honestly. My wife’s name is Chris Curle. Siri knows that now. I made sure.
Siri is multilingual when set up properly. I tried a shortcut, simply saying to her in German, “Guten tag.” Responded Siri, “Searching for dog.” Note to self: Read the manual.
Siri can be coy at times.
Asked, “What’s your ZIP code?” she responded, “Don, you’re not supposed to ask your assistant such things.”
Undeterred, I asked, “Who is Siri?” The voice in the palm of my hand said, “That’s me.” (Grammarians take note.)
I decided to throw a Hail Mary pass.
“What is the meaning of life?” I asked, having read about another iPhoner with USA Today who asked that question.
My first answer was “42.” So I tried again and got this: “That’s easy. It’s a philosophical question concerning the purpose and significance of life or existence in general.”
Siri must have been tired of me, because she got all gooey in her answer to the USA Today reporter:
“Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”
I think I’ll give Siri a rest.
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Don Farmer is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and CNN news anchor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.