Voice to Vexed

“HELLO. The person you were trying to call is unavailable. Please leave a short, 10 second message, and it will be sent as a text message.”


Stress related brain, head and most of upper-torso explosion.

Many have been there. If you haven’t, congratulations. But you obviously didn’t have mobile phone reception or a, cough, landline with you while you were living under a rock. At least you do have internet in order to sympathise with the rest of the long-suffering us. Well, probably not that long. Maybe a decade.

Anyway: Voice-to-Text is an irritating service which, as its name mostly explains, involves speaking for 10 seconds a message which is hopefully, but by no means certainly, accurately converted to a text message and sent to the person you called. Unfortunately, there are a few problems with this piece of technology that I’d liken – because it’s one of those things that should be un-invented – to napalm or Justin Bieber:

1. Rumour goes (and don’t quote me, because I’m normal and have regular voicemail) that, for example, say someone recites “Hey baby, you were great last night and I’m looking forward to giving you a spanking this weekend” to a Voice-to-Text answering service. Apparently, as far as the service is concerned, the message could end up reading as “Hey baby, your mum was great last night and she’s looking forward to giving me a spanking this weekend”. Or like this: “Hlr blby, u wirz rgtea lst nikt nnd ‘mi lurking frwad 2 gavgld yrdkdd sping thers wblend.” Confusion can quite easily reign supreme;

2. When you call someone it’s generally because you want to say something at such length, detail and possibly importance that a text message, or Goddamn 10 second Voice-to-Text message, is insufficient. And at the very least, under the circumstances, you really need to be answered by voicemail. I mean, we’re dealing with communication here; a vital human tool that pre-dates bloody agriculture;

3. Use of the service threatens domestic, professional and possibly political nightmares if you use your phone to call your wife, mother, kids and/or boss, for the above listed reasons. It could end up being a Sliding Doors moment, to regrettably but aptly use a cliché. You know, that awful (well maybe some people like it) movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow, in which she catches a train in one part of the two-part plot, and misses it in the other, causing an alternate and not necessarily pleasant set of events. Basically, Voice-to-Text has the potential to cause relationship breakdowns, civil unrest and the complete destruction of the universe. Think I’m being hysterical? Hey, imagine if someone had phoned Archduke Franz Ferdinand just before he stepped out the door to go for a car-ride with his wife on the fateful morning of June 28, 1914. If he’d had Voice-to-Text, it could have been the very reason why he was assassinated.

This is a verbatim message I recently spoke to my brother’s Voice-to-Text service, quoting Chief Clancy Wiggum from The Simpsons: “This is Papa Bear. Put out an APB for a male suspect, driving a . . . car of some sort, heading in the direction of, uh, you know, that place that sells chili. Suspect is hatless. Repeat: hatless.”

This is what appeared as a text message on his phone: “This is Papa Bear. Put an APP for a male suspect throwing up the car or some sort being the direction of you know that place is so chilly. Suspect is helpless. Repeat.” For closure and possibly a small giggle, Homer, apparently overhearing the porky policeman’s monologue, goes on to say “I can’t wait until they throw his hatless butt in jail”. God only knows exactly what Voice-to-Text would make of that.

Amazingly, there seems to be no complaints specifically about this service on that ultimate place of airing one’s dirty laundry: the internet. Though there’s plenty of whingeing about word processing voice recognition software. Perhaps I am a purveyor of melodrama. Maybe I have made a novel out of a text message or a rant out of a muttered curse. In that unlikely case, in order to make one last attempt at illustrating my point, please comment if you disagree. But, the condition is you may use only 10 words in your comment. GOODBYE.

One thought on “Voice to Vexed

  1. Pingback: Reading Digest: Missing Canadian Edition | Dead Homer Society

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