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Virtual Women

May 9, 2009 | by Andy Cowan

It's hard for me to tell the real women from the fake ones.

As with the early days of live TV, the early days of "live women" are starting to seem like a quaint remnant from yesteryear, yet another golden age we didn't know was golden until it faded away. I admit that most of the ladies who've been "communicating" with me lately have been prerecorded -- as when I recently answered the phone and heard, "Hi, this is Wendy! Great news!" It would be greater news if the Wendy in my life wasn't an automaton.

Wendy and her machine-generated ilk are everywhere, generating so much fake politeness from fake people that it seeps into our collective consciousness, making us undeservedly cynical when actual glimmers of civility from actual people come our way. It can also make the less-than-efficient partners in our lives seem even less efficient.

Witness my most serious relationship with a virtual woman -- my devoted voicemail secretary. True, she's also been seeing other people, well, perhaps millions of them, but at least she sounds as coolly detached with them as she does with me. (I was starting to take it personally.)

When I check in for my messages, and "You have . . ." resonates with a distinctively bored tenor, I know she's about to report "no new messages." (Why can't they program some empathy into "no new messages"?)

After relaying "one new message," she sounds equally blasé. (I get one measly e-mail about Viagra and my AOL "You've got mail" man sounds thrilled.)

I get one measly e-mail and my AOL "You've got mail" man sounds thrilled.

But in the rare cases when "You have . . ." opens with a tantalizing lift to her voice, I learn once again that she's not nearly as prone to jealousy as we flesh-and-blood types are, by virtue of her pre-programmed excitement over at least two non-virtual people wanting to talk to me. Apparently, even she can't believe it. I don't get a slew of calls, so it's tough getting even the prerecorded women in my life excited. Still, whenever I need her, she's there for me. And all she demands in return is a big enough nest egg to cover the phone bill. Talk about low maintenance.
But I've been thinking about her lack of loyalty, the millions of others who call her their own. Maybe I need to explore relationships with other prerecorded women.

"Toll-free directory assistance. Please say the name of the listing you want."

You. There's something about your voice. I know it may sound crazy, but I think you could really get me."

"Sorry, I didn't get that. You can leave out extra information, such as department or location. Please say just the name of the listing you want."

The location to your heart.

"I'm sorry, I'm not finding a match . . ."

How can she be so quick to judge? . . . Oh well, I can always expect a nice . . .

"Welcome to Sears. What type of service would you like?"

A date.

"OK. Let me know what you'd like to do. You can make, change or cancel an appointment . . ."

I'd like an appointment. With you.

"OK. You'd like to make an appointment for repair service. Right?"

I need to repair my social life.

"Please say yes or no. You want to make a repair appointment, right?"

OK, OK. Yes.

"I'll give you a list of options, and when you hear the one you want, just say "more information."

"More information. What's your sign?"

"I'm sorry. I didn't catch that. Please say "more information."

"Capricorn... Virgo... I don't care. I just need someone who understands me."

"Sorry. I'm having trouble understanding you."

We're not exactly clicking here.

I think I'll hop into the car and let my GPS "woman" direct me to the supermarket where, after listening to the animated "woman" directing me to what's on sale, I summon the courage to ask out an actual woman. Maybe it's time to send her the message that I'm ready to get real.

As for other messages that may bear fruit . . . Talk to you later, voicemail lady!

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