Note: Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
My friend and long-time roommate Kiki was a cell phone pioneer. She got her first one very early on in the wireless revolution. Frankly, I’m convinced she was talking to herself on the thing — no one else had one, so who the hell was she calling? (Please forgive me if it’s actually supposed to be “whom the hell.” I am a bit of an idiot savant with certain grammar matters.)
By the time I procured my first cellular device, Kiki was already on her second or third, and an expert on all things Sprint. Her vast knowledge was a little intimidating, but the fact that my mobile number started with the coveted 917 area code while hers started with the much gaucher 646 comforted me a smidge.
One afternoon, I opened the front door to our swinging bachelorette pad and found Kiki calling out random names and phrases. For the past few days, she’d been threatening to program her new cell phone’s voice-activated dialing feature — I assumed that’s what she was doing.
“AL-LEE.” Kiki pronounced her friend Ali’s name slowly and deliberately.
The robot lady who lived in her phone indicated that the name “Ali” sounded too similar to another name she’d already programmed.
Kiki tried, “AL-LEE-GOLD-BERG.”
Robot Lady still couldn’t differentiate between Ali and the other entry.
Slightly exasperated but committed to the cause, Kiki persevered, attempting to outsmart Robot Lady. “AL-LEE-GOLD-BERG-WHO-IS-MARRIED-TO-SCOTT- GOLD-BERG.”
Denied. Damn, Robot Lady was a bee-atch!
From the living room, I could tell that Kiki was starting to lose her patience. There was a long pause and I thought for a minute she’d given up.
But no. She took a deep breath, more determined than ever to triumph over Robot Lady.
“Even if that one works,” I wanted to know, “Are you really going to sit in Starbucks and scream that into your phone when you want to call Ali?”
It was a valid question, but the answer proved to be irrelevent because it was still 1998 and Robot Lady’s micro-chip brain hadn’t evolved enough to process a name like that. Kiki’s shiny new phone shorted out and she had to exchange it for a less sophisticated model. There was nothing more humbling than walking into the apartment the next day and seeing Kiki — brace yourself — dialing.