"I'm Fighting More Robots" by Kristin Hersh, November 6 2008 (originally
published on kristinhersh.com)
I’m fighting more robots than I used to,
it seems. And robots fight dirty.
Both my cell phone and my computer insist that
I am a cretin. Not a “christine” or a “kirsten”, which I could understand. At least those are names.
The robots have taught me to avoid ever writing my name except on pieces of paper, but it does come up every now and then
in robot world. “Kristin?” they ask snidely. “Are
you sure? We’re thinking ‘cretin.’ Yeah, that’s definitely it. Try cretin.” And they snicker.
The phone robot also
has a more insidious weapon it uses against me: predictive text. Like most introverts, I love the idea of texting, as there
is no human voice or face attached to the communication and no tension associated with hanging up or not being able to. Texting
is like passing notes in class, which is a terribly under-appreciated art form, in my opinion. My phone, however, doesn’t
let me use some of the basic words that I have long considered it my right to use.
For instance, the word “back.” Instead of “I will get back to you…love, kristin” it makes
me say, “I will get back baby bad balls to you…love cretin”. Once, it made me say, “merry merry meat
meat on the phone phone”. I don’t even remember what I was trying to
say. The word “television” is always followed by the word “gonads.” If I type the letter “A”,
it is followed by “NOW chlorinated!” The letter “I” is followed by “Still SUCK.”
The self-checkout robot at the grocery store only speaks to me in Spanish. Which made
me feel sexy at first (I’m rarely mistaken for swarthy), but…I don’t speak Spanish and I’m easily
confused even in my own language. I’m working on my Spanish;
after all, I live in California. I’m not advancing quickly enough for the self-checkout robot, though, who repeats herself
over and over again, calmly but loudly enough for the other (smirking) grocery store patrons to hear. I never know what she
wants me to do, so I just stand there, frowning, balancing bags of salad and cartons of eggs, waiting for rescue. I want the
self-checkout robot to like me, but I don’t think she ever will.
My TV doesn’t
even like me, and really, a TV is an ancient, “Lost in Space” version of a robot. Its thought patterns are still
more complex than mine, however. It uses its army of remotes to mock me and my Luddite sensibilities. Together, the television
and its remote minions have convinced Tivo to record documentaries on “a man eating animals” rather than “man-eating
animals” and instead of “mammal babies,” “mammalsmaking babies.”
The latter made for a rather uncomfortable evening gathered around the television with my children, all of us avoiding eye
contact with anything but the floor.
I’m seriously thinking about engaging in
human contact, of all things, which is traditionally where my Luddite tendencies let me down. I’m an asocial Luddite
which is a non-starter. It’s hard to raise a barn without talking to somebody about it first, you know? I really thought
the robots could help me out with this problem of mine, but they don’t wanna hang out with me anymore. They’re
too cool and they know it.
So the next time I’m at the grocery store,
I’ll take a deep breath and then wait in line with the human beings, the walking, talking, meat meat robots and when
they ask me a question, I’ll be ready to say something back baby bad balls. If I feel like texting someone, I’m
gonna call them on the phone phone and I’ll be ready with a NOW chlorinated! way to end the conversation. I will not
watch animal porn with my children unless it is absolutely necessary, because I am the boss of my television gonads. And I’m
brushing up on my terrible Spanish, though I Still SUCK.