Let’s get serious about smartphones

Let’s get serious about smartphones

I can’t see anything up close with my glasses on and I can’t see anything at a distance with my glasses off. I know, I know, welcome to getting old. Well, I’d like to give that aging process a big fat Bronx cheer.

But, wait, technology can come to the rescue. No, I’m not talking about laser surgery and I’m not looking for a special blended form of bifocal, trifocal or whatever. No, you see, technology makes it possible for me to use my state-of-the-art smartphone without needing to see it.

“Siri, send a text message to my wife,” I can say.

To which the automatic voice activation feature will reply, “What is your wife’s name?” And then, when I don’t reply in time, the voice will say, “I’m not sure what you said there.”

But assuming Siri and I can get on the same page about the desired recipient of my intended message, I can start talking into the phone and she will take dictation. No need for an administrative assistant like Mrs. Wiggins, courtesy of Carol Burnett, to take a memo.

Except that, like Mrs. Wiggins, there are some potential comedic kinks in the system. For one thing, whenever I start a text or email with the word Hi, Siri only seems to hear the letter “I.” My texts start out with “I Dr. Smith.” It’s a poor start to have a missing letter at the beginning of a text or email that I can’t check because I can’t see well with my glasses on and I can’t take my glasses off in that moment.

While Siri gets most of the words right, sometimes she struggles with grammar and words that are pronounced alike — such as to, too and two. Or what I mumble. I admit that I don’t always speak clearly. In fact, when I say, “This is Dan,” people sometimes hear, “This is Stan,” because I don’t pause long enough before saying my name.

I was discussing this problem with a friend of mine, who spends a considerable number of hours in the car each week, traveling from one job to another. He said he dictates emails and text messages on his phone constantly to make use of his travel time.

“Hey, be careful when you’re dictating, particularly when you’re driving,” he cautioned.

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, you know that thing picks up everything you say, right?”

“Yeah?” I asked, tilting my head to the side and waiting for a punch line.

“The other day I was driving and I sent an email that went something like this:

“Dear Mr. Jones, I got your response to my invoice and … oh, so you thought cutting me off in my lane was a good idea? And you didn’t even use your blinker. Where’d you get your license? … I was wondering if we might discuss the additional cost of gas which, as you know, is … that’s how I would drive if I had a death wish, too … climbing. Anyway, I’m happy to discuss by phone or at a … thanks for sharing your music with us. That’s what we all want to hear when we’re at a traffic light, your music. Isn’t that how we got some dictators to surrender, by playing that kind of music outside their presidential estates? … meeting. OK, so give me a call when you have a chance.”

While he said that was a slight exaggeration, he realized something was amiss when someone wrote back, “OK, next time I’ll use my blinker.”