Phone Calls From Knowlegable Machines

no wonder I feel so strange; friday the thirteenth comes on a
thursday this month. ten thirty in the ante meridian on this
bright thursday morning and I picked up a ringing phone here
in bar code scanner land. *beeep* “your prescription is ready to
be picked up at the walgreen’s pharmacy.”  the voice was flat and
smooth as a kitchen countertop and it repeated itself  “your
prescription is ready to be picked up at the walgreens pharmacy.”
I realized I’d lifted the receiver into a clever little automated time
saver and picked up a pen, began writing. “your prescription is
ready to be picked up at the walgreen’s pharmacy,” it repeated.
“your prescription is ready to be picked up at the walgreens
pharmacy.” it became an electronic cadance.  like four long
drum beats, then *beeep* and *click* and that was that.
“andrew?”  “yes?”  “do you have a prescription being filled at
the walgreen’s pharmacy?”  “yes, I do.”  “I just got a call.
it’s ready.”  is it worth it, to have the computer call me?
it takes time to enter the filled order in the computer so
it knows to call here and notify.  is it worth it not to call and
say it with vibrating vocal cords?  it’s a price being paid.
it’s an opportunity cost.  it has already become trite and boring
to argue the semantic validity and implications of referring
to a computer as “knowing” something.  in it’s own manner
the computer knows to call.  in my own manner, I know I’m
typing right now.  Save Our Species.  heh.  shit. maybe we can
all be friends.  I like being friends with my bus, I like knowing
how its parts move and most of what they need to keep moving
properly.  it is a relationship, I suppose.  it is a different relationship
with my computer, I just know it works, I don’t know how. but it’s
the same thing with love, isn’t it, now?  I know it works, I just
don’t know how.  I go through different degrees of learning how
and forgetting and relearning but what always brings me home
and saves my life is knowing love works. tried and true. woo hoo.
the computer  relationship, the engine relationship,  they are
the same concept, same channels, just different
empirical information (that I do not possess right now) travelling
along those channels like cars on freeways and blood cells in
veins and electrons on microchips; another set of empirical information
I could learn, but my head is more interested in being filled up with what
I’m writing now and amateur art history and second rate philosophy
and the quest for fresh metaphors and love and the pistons moving
through the cylinders in my 1969 Volkswagen bus, the spark plugs
firing up the fuel/air mixture behind the valves all in elegant  clockwork
order 4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3. four cylinder engine firing order.
I guess if I listened hard enough I could know more about
the electrons racing like traffic on a superhighway through the
silicon raceways inside of that tiny little chip inside of that metal
and plastic box that makes these colors, pictures, letters, and
procedures appear on this computer monitor.  sometimes I feel
so fucking human.  so human; and sometimes it’s the best feeling
in the world.  are you listening to me?  sometimes it is the BEST
FEELING IN THE WORLD.  but it’s always and sometimes.
man, I’m a tired man.  I need a tired body.  I kind of have one;
but only kind of.


About Suhail Rafidi

Suhail Rafidi is a novelist and educator whose works explore the destiny of human values in a technological landscape. You can find him on Twitter, too, @shelldive.
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