That's a good one, quite clever. I get the pleasure of hearing a new variation every single day, and
the added pleasure of meeting Frannie's eyes and flashing her a fake, empty, nervous smile, the present one of which silently
screams, "Get the hell out of here right this second!" I hope the chapter she's reading today is nice and long, with
dense, sprawling paragraphs to suit her dense, sprawling figure. Enough jokes at Frannie's expense; now that she's left
the office, she's entitled to my good graces. I wait for her to traipse all the way down the hall, open the glass door
at the front of the building, and step outside. A moment - the exact same length as all such moments; so exact that
I could set my watch by it - passes, and the glass door sends me a click.
The phone, the drawer, the piece of paper with the number on it. All these items interconnected in
my miniature mission. Like any person who ever phones for customer service, I experience a quiet (or in this case, very
pronounced) dread that the person I reach will be incompetent, but there's no use in worrying about things I can't control,
so I should stick to worrying about something I can control: my robot.
An automated voice tells me to wait, and a while later I'm met by a commercial in midstream. It's the
director of RealMates speaking, the one from the press conference years ago whose name I can't and don't care to recall: "...RM
community is proud to introduce its new line of RealOpponents, who are seasoned in competition at all levels, be it on the
athletic field or in your place of work. RealOpponents are designed to fill your life with intrigue by challenging what
you say and think, and making you enhance your own performance on the field of humanity." Just as my lower jaw lands
on my desk, another voice, this one female, chimes in: "My RealOpponent always beats me at chess, but the good news is, after
playing him each and every day, I'm able to defeat all my other firends." What subtle use of the word "other", which
of course implies that this Opponent robot is a friend! Another voice, belonging to a middle-aged male: "Ever since
I picked up my RealOpponent, I stopped being late for appointments. He wakes me up first thing in the morning, and then
uses stern encouragement to get me where I'm going throughout-"
"RealMates, this is Linda speaking. How may I help you?"
For a moment I'm thinking that Allison was a wrongfully distributed RealOpponent, but I vaguely remember
hearing that no new Real lines would be released until Christmas, so the likelihood of that particular error occurring is
"Yes, hello, um..." a glance at the door; no Frannie in sight, "I purchased a robot named Allison."
.© Eric Shapiro, 2006.