Dateland: I, Robot
It’s Sunday morning, and I’m lying in bed next to my girlfriend. Instead of paying attention to me, she is arguing with Google Maps.
“What human being would ever take that route, you idiot!” she yells as she angrily punches the keyboard with her fingers.
Google Maps does not answer. It simply continues to highlight the route. In red! Just to make her more angry. Google Maps is a bastard.
Attracted by the commotion, our highly excitable miniature Schnauzers jump on top of her and join her in batting at the computer. This just makes her more furious because she does not like to have any interaction with carbon-based lifeforms when she is arguing with a robot.
And then I make the mistake of speaking.
“I thought robots were designed to serve us. To meet our needs and make our lives easier,” I say. “But they only seem to irritate you.”
“Oh, shut up!” she says to me, the dogs and the computer. She gets out of bed and storms into the living room, taking only one of us with her—the computer.
Now, I love computers and the robots they command. Computers allow me to easily stalk old girlfriends when I’m drunk! And I adore that robot vacuum that scoots around your hardwood floors. It’s like a spaceship whose alien inhabitants are bent on collecting your fingernails, bits of food and pet hair. I imagine the vacuums eventually returning to their home planet and creating a master race of dog/cat/food scrap hybrids with very long claws.
As I lie in bed, I hear a noise emanating from the living room that indicates that my girlfriend has changed her tactics. Instead of screaming insults, she’s now attempting to cajole the computer by issuing a steady stream of hushed curse words in a singsong tone. It sounds like a lullaby in a nursery in hell.
I remember when Sunday mornings used to mean lazy hours in bed—reading the newspaper, having sex, and listening to jazz. Now, as soon as we wake, we flip on our laptops, sucking in the artificial glow from their screens as if it was our life force.
As I wallow in the sentimentality of my happy years as a luddite, I remember that my computer overlord has a program that allows me to access every obscure vocal jazz song ever recorded! I click onto my Spotify application and type in Billie Holiday. Hundreds of recordings magically appear.
Do I miss the wonderful hours spent discussing the brilliance of the Verve label with the weirdos who hung out in funky record stores? Sure! But there’s something to be said for finding hidden treasures by obscure artists with just a few keystrokes, all while lying in bed and dribbling coffee on yourself.
I am merrily typing Kay Starr’s name into Spotify when my girlfriend returns to bed. She is deflated and collapses next to me in defeat.
“Did the computer win?” I ask, secretly resenting its victory because this probably means I’ll have to quit Spotify and have sex.
She reaches over to me and touches my face. The feeling of human contact is foreign and oddly pleasant. “I need a break from that thing. Let’s have sex.”
My body begins to warm to the concept, but then I come up with a better idea!
“Or, we could watch that video of those goats that scream like humans.”
“Or we could read an actual book….” she says, as we smile at each other with nostalgia.
We both understand that we have no real choice in the matter. Just like a robot, I open YouTube and type “goat screaming like human.”