The Voice That You Hear

It’s amazing the things you can do on a computer. Maybe younger people, hipsters who have grown up with video games and cordless phones, don’t think it’s so cool. But for someone who still can’t understand how an airplane can stay up in the air, let alone how our wireless network works (I still jump when the printer starts churning out a document after I’ve hit the “print” button on the computer two feet away), it’s pretty cool.

There are things you can play with for hours. If you’ve given up Free Cell and Spider Solitaire for Lent and for life, you can still waste hours and hours just sitting in front of a computer screen avoiding doing any real work. 

I discovered something new the other day. If you go into “preferences” in my mac computer, you can choose to have a voice tell you the time every 15 minutes, 30 minutes or on the hour. There are different voices to choose for your listening pleasure. There’s a long list and the sample voice clip for each one is interesting enough to keep you unproductively doing absolutely nothing for at least an hour.

Agnes says, “isn’t it nice to have a computer that will talk to you?” She sounds like robo-Nazi prison guard.

Kathy sounds drunk.

Princess says “When I grow up I’m going to be a scientist.” With a name like Princess? I don’t think so.

Vicki and Victoria sound like they’re related, but Vicki has more cleavage showing.

Fred says, “I sure like being inside this fancy computer.”

So does Bruce, but with a slightly effeminate twinge (I kid you not).

Albert says, “I have a frog in my throat.” And then “No, I’m in a real throck!” I have no idea what that means.

Junior says, “My favorite food is pizza” in the voice I had right after I got my tonsils out.

Bahh says, “Don’t pull the wool over my eyes.” I think that someone already did when they gave you the name Bahh.

Deranged is crying (yes, crying) when he says, “I need to go on a really long vacation.” Who would choose this?

Whisper hisses, “Psst! Hey You! Yes, you! Who do you think I’m talking to, the mouse?” This one has a little sarcastic streak. He’ll never get invited into my home with that attitude.

Good News sings to the tune of the Graduation Song and tells me I’ve just won a sweepstakes and I don’t have to pay taxes again.

Bad News sings to the tune of the Death March and sings, “The light that you see at the end of the tunnel, is it a lamp of a fast approaching train?”

Bubbles is someone talking underwater. I can’t understand a single word of it.

Boing tell me “Spring has sprang. Fall has fell.” Boing has not learned the present perfect verb tense and should go back to elementary school with Junior. Take Albert with you and get him some speech therapy.

Hysterical says, “Please stop! Please!” This one is sick. So obviously that was the one I used.  I had listened to all the voices at least a couple times each and was getting bored with it and programmed it for Hysterical. About 20 minutes later I was reading some emails and I heard Sam Kinnison’s voice come out of my computer, saying, “I-i-i-it’s two-o-o- o’clock!” in a sad, lonely voice.

There are clearly too many choices here. One male and one female would have sufficed. Who is ever going to choose to have the time told to them via computer in a voice of a drowning person?  Or sung to a tune that reminds you of a funeral for someone who died from being hit by a train in a tunnel? Do people want to be reminded on the hour that they should be more depressed?

I can picture these 20-year-old Apple tech guys sitting around coming up with voices for the list, a helium tank, a Fisher Price Voice Changer, and a keg of beer with them.

“Dude, dude, dude! Listen:  How ‘bout one that sounds like that Vicki chick in accounting?”

When I was in college my roommate Doria and I had a fascination with the voice of The Huntington Bank Man, the faceless guy whose voice was on the time and temperature phone line in Kent. He was an older gentleman and he gently but firmly told us some of the banking services of Huntington Bank and then what time it was, ending by quickly sneaking in the temperature. Doria called him several times a day. I knew she had crossed the line when she dressed up like him for Halloween. Worse, I knew who she was.

Why are people obsessed with personifying everything? We can’t just look at an inanimate clock; we have to have a person tell us what time it is. In words, in a voice, even if that voice is creepy and makes us sad, defeated and want to eat too many Hershey bars. 

There should be a voice called Mom who says, “It’s 4 o’clock. Have you practiced piano yet?” or “It’s 5:30. Is that Hot Pocket going to be your dinner?” or “It’s 7 o’clock. If we all pitch in, we can get the kitchen cleaned up in 15 minutes.”

When the generations shift and the techies grow up and become parents, we’ll have voices like Mom, Dad, Basketball Coach, Nurse Practitioner, Ninth Grade English Teacher, Your Grandpa and Marching Band Director. Maybe they can even talk the Huntington Bank Man to come out of retirement.