Watch Out

With all the fuss about smart watches these days (disclaimer: I’m on my third pebble), I wanted to highlight their darker side in a short story. Ended up showing some of humanity’s darker side too, so as to not make the watches look too bad.

Tom’s watch blared the usual alarm for his usual wake up call. He wasn’t in any particular hurry today, but he liked feeling rushed so he dressed quickly and grabbed a breakfast shake on his way to the car.

Before he got there his watch rang again, this time with an incoming call.

“Y’ello, this is Tom.”
“Tom you scumbag, the insurance company said you didn’t file anything with them!”
“Chill out Sarah, you know I can’t. Another incident and they’ll revoke my license.”
“You’re still pretending you weren’t even there?”
“It’s your car, no-one else was around, they’ll buy it. But I’m really sorry babe, I’ll make it up to you I promise. Dinner on Thursday?”
“I can’t believe you! Even if we weren’t over since you smashed my car, dinner with you is hardly a gift. Goodbye Tom. Call Ended.”

Tom sighed and got into his car. He really was sorry, but he couldn’t think of anything else he could do. He was barely scraping by as it was, and even though most cars were self-driving by now he still loved driving himself around the countryside. He wasn’t going to drive himself today though, not right after Sarah yelled at him. All this just because he accidentally crashed her car a little while joyriding.

“Car, take me to… uh… Watch, what’s first up in my calendar today?”
“Today you have an appointment at 1491 Middleton road. With current traffic, you should leave in negative five minutes.”
“Late already? Car, take me there and step on it!”
“Now departing for 1491 Middleton road. This car will only travel at posted speed limits, and cannot accomodate any request to go faster outside of emergencies such as…”
“Yeah yeah. Car, shut up.”

Tom knew he could make up the five minutes easy if he took the wheel, but he still just didn’t feel like it. He wanted to go over to Sarah’s flat and try again to apologize, but in her current mood she’d probably throw stuff at him if he showed up. She sounded so sexy when she was mad though, it still might be worth it – if he weren’t already late.

Sarah sounded great all the time of course. She was a voice model for computer speech synthesizers. Tom did almost everything verbally with computers (mostly via his omnipresent wrist-watch) and had installed Sarah’s voice on every device. So he figured that if he didn’t have time for the real girl, he could at least hear her voice as he drove.

“Watch, what is today’s weather forecast?”
“Processing, please wait.”
“Processing?”, thought Tom, “What’s so complex about today’s weather?”
The watch continued a second later: “The forecast for your area today is warm and sunny, with a high of 92 and a low of 84. There is a ten percent chance of showers from around ten pm this evening.”
“Watch, what was the score for the Giant’s game last night?”
“Processing, please wait”
“Man, the net sucks today…”
“Last night the Giants beat the Zombies 7 to 5. The Giants are currently undefeated with three victories this season.”
“Woo Giants! Okay Car, turn on the radio to the last played station.”

Tom headbanged along for the rest of the way, barely paying attention to the time or the route. He noticed at one point they were on an old country highway, he didn’t know he was setup to grab clients from the next town over. But the whole system was automated, and he didn’t want the penalty for cancelling on the same day, so he figured he’d check it out later. “Watch, add a reminder for tonight to check my client range settings.” “Reminder created for seven pm tonight.” And Tom kept rocking, as the car kept driving itself further and further out into the country.

“You have arrived at your destination, 1491 Middleton Road.” Tom got out of the car and looked around. The place looked like an old abandoned service station. Except for the highway, it was barren desert stretching on for miles in all directions.

“Uh, watch. What are the details of this appointment?”
“Appointment at noon, 1491 Middleton Road. Quotation for installation of solar panels on property.”
Tom sold solar panel contracts on private roofs and yards. Given the sun-scorched desert surrounding the decrepit building, he felt confident he could make a big sale here. The watch continued:
“Client notes: Please enter and ring bell upon arrival.”
“Ring bell? I must be the only car they’ll see all day and they didn’t notice?”
“Please restate request.”
“Oh, sorry watch. Just thinking out loud.”

Tom went through the door, the inside of the building didn’t look any less abandoned. Bare wooden shelves and an empty counter with a dusty bell, but at least that was consistent with the client notes. Maybe it was about to be revitalized, or maybe they wanted to turn the property into a solar farm! Tom went up to the counter and rang the bell.

“You’re sooooooo dumb Tom”. The voice came from his watch, but he didn’t recall asking it for its opinion. He drew his wrist up near his face and activated the display. It read “Voice call ongoing. Elapsed time 3:02:22”. Then he heard a loud click, and the watch screen turned off completely. He tried to re-activate it, to no avail. He ran back to his car, hammering the door remote, yelling for it to open, but it did not respond. Even inside the car, all the lights were off. It was a sad sight, seen by no-one in that desolate place, as Tom screamed at his car to let him in. Then he screamed at his watch to turn back on and call someone. Finally he was screaming at himself for being so dumb. At last he agreed with Sarah on something.

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