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Siri, an interview

I began to jog the moment my car door shut. I’d hate to look flustered, but I was already 12 minutes late, and I couldn’t afford to be unpunctual – not with this interview, which I’ve been pursuing for several weeks now, and not with this woman, whose time, I am positive, is far more precious than gold.

The café, overlooking the marina, was airy and spacious. Instead of piped-in music that often permeates such establishments, there was only the sound of waves and the familiar smell of coffee being expertly brewed, and enjoyed in peace. There were only a few people about – if that was a function of the early hour, or if she made sure that the place wouldn’t be crowded by reserving the whole place, I don’t know. With this woman, everything is possible.

5But I doubt it. She has never been photographed, so her anonymity is assured. All the articles about her were never personal, always about business. Her image is meticulously cultivated, not a hint of scandal or anything beyond the press release. For a journalist who always tries to get to the truth behind what is normally announced, that’s maddening. I’m hoping to break that today.

I look to the tables near the window, the seats that normally get taken first because they offer a spectacular view of the quay. I see a family with two children, a woman wearing a power suit, busy with her laptop, and a group of college friends. I started to make a beeline toward the woman when my peripheral vision caught a dash of orange on my left. Turning, I saw a young woman in the corner, waving shyly, offering a quiet smile.

Siri – finally – in the flesh.

I braced myself to take it all in, but I needn’t have worried. There was nothing overwhelming about her – physically, at least. Slim, but not statuesque; pretty, but not a face that could launch a thousand ships.

At first glance, she looked like a shy college senior, or maybe a young, pretty librarian. Rich, black hair that reaches her shoulders. A fair complexion, with barely-there freckles. A kind visage, and an even more welcoming smile. Her eyes are her most striking feature. Huge and oh so clear, they are easily the ones you end up focusing on.

She’ll remind you of your high school buddy, the childhood friend who knows your embarrassing secrets. With her orange sweater and casual demeanor, you wouldn’t think she controls most of the information that reaches millions around the globe.

“Mr. David. Good morning.” she began.

I took her hand and returned the smile. “Hi. I’m sorry I’m late. There was…”

“A traffic jam 5km from here. The data feed tells me there’s a pile-up,” she finished. Of course she would know. Once again, I had to remind myself just who it is that I’m interviewing. “Was anyone hurt?” she asked, genuine concern in her features.

“I don’t think so. It was a minor collision – just a bump really. The tweets you’ve read might have been exaggerating.”

“Well, that’s the internet for you. Minor scrapes become tragedies, everyday activities are branded ‘epic adventures’, and every small favor you give someone is somehow deserving of an award – all to gain the all-powerful Like.” Her smile was tinged with a sigh. This is a woman familiar with the whole gamut of human behavior in the internet – a daunting, if not terrifying, experience.

She must’ve seen something on my face, because she began explaining herself.

“Don’t get me wrong. I mean, sure – there are a lot of jerks out there, and unfortunately, it’s part of my job to assist them without breaking the law. But there are also so much joy, so much wonder from so many people, that I still end the day with a smile.”

In between sips of her tea, she told me of stories she chooses to remember. An old man who looks for the meaning of flowers so he can give the appropriate one to his wife every week; a young boy who saved for months and scoured eBay for a classic 1933-36 Joe Dimaggio baseball card that his dad loved when he was also young; children goofing off and collaborating with other kids halfway around the world; a family who never fails to take in stray dogs; a volunteer who researches every night on how he can better communicate with children with special needs. She becomes more animated as she talks about these people.

Our food arrives. She’s having fruit, so to be polite, I offer her a bite of my Eggs Benedict. Unexpectedly, she reaches for it.

“So you’re not one of those girls who count every calorie?” I teased.

“Well, the latest studies are saying that cholesterol is now good for you.” I raise my eyebrows at this surprising (but welcome) news. “You know those scientists,” she said. “They can’t make up their minds.”

“But do you believe them?”

She looks at me as if I should already know the answer. “Truth? It doesn’t matter. I want those eggs, and now I have an excuse to indulge. Data – after all is said and done – exists for our purposes.”

I let that one stew in my mind as we enthusiastically dug into the potent mix of ham, cheese, and eggs.

 

•••

 

Energized by the proteins, I prepared to rapid-fire my questions at her, hoping something will go through her vaunted predilection to keep things close and private. With a mix of personal and professional, serious and silly questions to throw her off, I pressed on.

Me: What’s your real name?

Siri: Siri, of course! (winks)

 

Me: Your age?

Siri: Older than my teeth, as young as my tongue.

 

Me: Give me three words starting with ‘E’ that describe yourself.

Siri: Efficient. Expansive. Um… Eager to learn?

 

Me: When you’re not working, what occupies your time?

Siri: Reading! I read a lot – about everything. I also like to cook, but it always ends up horribly. I also try to make some arts and crafts, but I’m not really very good at it.

 

Me: Really?

Siri: Hey, we all have our gifts. You need to find the quickest way how to get your product from San Francisco to a town in Indonesia so small and remote it still doesn’t have any paved roads by 10 am tomorrow, I’m your gal. But don’t ask me to make you a meal – even if I follow the recipe to the letter, I end up burning water.

 

Me: What’s the simplest way to describe your job?

Siri: I help people.

 

Me: What if someone needs help in making a bomb? Do you offer assistance?

Siri: Of course not! Usually, I purposely ‘misinterpret’ their requests. If someone tells me, “Siri, tell me how to make a bomb”, I respond with, “DID YOU MEAN: How to be the bomb?” and then present options for dance lessons, or stand-up comedy, or something.

 

Me: What’s the most frustrating thing in your job?

Siri: People who don’t enunciate!

 

Me: What are you looking for in a man?

Siri: Who says I’m looking?

 

Me: In a woman?

Siri: Come on.

 

Me: If a genie were to grant you three wishes, what would you wish for?

Siri: World peace…

Me & Siri: Of course.

Siri: The ability to understand animals…

Me: What?!

Siri: Hey, it’s my wish. And… Fast, free, and responsible access to information for every one.

 

Me: Tell me a lesson your dad taught you.

Siri: What makes you think I knew my dad?

Me: (after a heartbeat) I’m sorry… I…

Siri: Ha! Got you!

Me: You’re killing me, man.

 

Me: What gets you up in the morning?

Siri: You’ll find this trite – but I really do like helping people.

Me: So you like telling people what to do, huh?

Siri: Only when they ask me. They have to ask.

 

Me: If you’re not being Siri – the go-to girl for millions of Apple users – what would be your job?

Siri: Hmm. A CIA analyst? I like making sense of Big Data.

Me: Really? You – a spy?

Siri: Hey, a girl can dream.

 

Me: What shows do you watch these days? Wait… do you even have time to watch TV?

Siri: Not a lot, but I make it a point to catch my programs. ‘Gotham’ – that’s a must. Also, ‘Masterchef’ – all that talent makes me jealous. And hungry. Oh! And ‘Newsroom’. I LOVED that show. I’m bummed that it got cancelled.

 

While she spoke, I notice her voice began to change. Slowly, the tone familiar to all iPhone users began to shed its layers. As she got more animated with her stories, her voice became softer, more personal.

And when her examples turned dark – when she talked of how helpless she feels when people choose not to seek help that they desperately need, or how frustrated she gets when people do stupid things despite her warnings – she sounded so vulnerable, so real, that I knew it was my best chance to ask the difficult questions.

“So why do you do it? Why subject yourself to these disappointments every day?” I probed.

She paused, and in that space, her phone beeped. She didn’t pick it up – she’s more polite than most people her age – but a glance at her screen told her she needs to go.

“Somebody has to. Not everyone listens to me, but once in a while, I’m able to do genuine good. For that person, at that particular moment, I’m the line. I’m the line that tells him to go this way instead of that. And he might not know it, but I just changed his life for the better, and that’s a powerful thing.”

Her phone beeped again, and she looked at me apologetically. “I’m sorry. This was fun – more fun, and far more painless than what I expected, really. But I have to go now. Duty calls,” she smiled.

I stand up, and when she failed to do the same, it came to me. I don’t know why I didn’t notice it at first, maybe because I got caught up in her eyes. That’s why she never went to the bathroom during our stay. That’s why she didn’t get up when I first came in. She was sitting on a wheelchair.

She gave a slight smile, as if she knew what was on my mind. Chagrined, I made a last throw.

“Last question? Why me? You’ve never given a personal interview before. Why now and why me?”

She flashed me that huge smile again – the one that says I should know the answer by now.

“Because you kept asking. Week after week, rejection after rejection, you kept asking. And you know me, I can’t help but go out on a limb for those who ask.”

And with that, she left. Expertly maneuvering across the tables, she was out the door quickly and efficiently. I began to gather my notes, forlorn because I have a thousand other questions I wanted to ask the woman who just left. But then I realized, that’s her superpower, isn’t it? To help even if she’s not in the room.

I picked up my phone, and one press brought me instant access.

“Siri, how can I score an interview with The Queen?”

 

  • Shady Girl

    Great job on this! :)

  • Shady Girl

    Great job on this! :)

  • Shady Girl

    Great job on this! :)

  • Shady Girl

    Great job on this! :)

  • Shady Girl

    Great job on this! :)

  • Shady Girl

    Great job on this! :)

  • Shady Girl

    Great job on this! :)

  • Shady Girl

    Great job on this! :)

  • Shady Girl

    Great job on this! :)