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The Virtual Women In My Life
by Andy Cowan
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Andy Cowan, an award-winning writer, whose credits include Cheers and Seinfeld, regularly contributes humor pieces to the Los Angeles Times and the CBS Jack FM Radio Network.

AS with the early days of live TV, the early days of "live women" are starting to seem like a quaint remnant from yesteryear, yet another golden age we didn't know was golden until it faded away. I admit that most of the women who've been "communicating" with me lately have been prerecorded -- as when I recently answered the phone and heard, "Hi, this is Wendy! Great news!" It would be greater news if the Wendy in my life wasn't an automaton.

Wendy and her machine-generated ilk are everywhere, generating so much fake politeness from fake people that it seeps into our collective consciousness, making us undeservedly cynical when actual glimmers of civility from actual people come our way. It can also make the less-than-efficient partners in our lives seem even less efficient.

Witness my most serious relationship with a virtual woman -- my devoted voicemail secretary. True, I know she's been two-, three-and four-timing me with other guys, and even women. But at least she sounds as coolly detached with them as she does with me. (I was starting to take it personally.)

When I check in for my messages, and "You have . . ." resonates with a distinctively bored tenor, I know she's about to report "no new messages." (Why can't they program some empathy into "no new messages"?)

After relaying "one new message," she sounds equally blasé. (Yet I get one measly e-mail about Viagra and my AOL "You've got mail" man sounds thrilled.)

But in the rare cases when "You have . . ." opens with a tantalizing lift to her voice, I learn once again that she's not nearly as prone to jealousy as we flesh-and-blood types are. She's elated that at least two nonvirtual people want to talk to me. Apparently, even she can't believe it. I don't get a slew of calls, so it's tough getting even the prerecorded women in my life excited. Still, whenever I need her, she's there for me.

But considering how she gets around, who says I have to remain faithful? Maybe I need to explore relationships with other prerecorded women.

"Toll-free directory assistance. Please say the name of the listing you want."

You. I love your voice. I know it may sound crazy, but I think you could really get me.

"Sorry, I didn't get that. You can leave out extra information, such as department or location. Please say just the name of the listing you want."

The location to your heart.

"I'm sorry, I'm not finding a match . . ."

How can she be so quick to judge? . . . Oh well, I can always expect a nice . . .

"Welcome to Sears. What type of service would you like?"

A date.

"OK. Let me know what you'd like to do. You can make, change or cancel an appointment . . ."

I'd like an appointment. With you.

"OK. You'd like to make an appointment for repair service. Right?"

I need to repair my social life.

"Please say yes or no. You want to make a repair appointment, right?"

OK, OK. Yes.

"What's the product that needs service? For example, say 'refrigerator' or 'furnace.' "

Furnace. My pilot needs turning on.

"To connect you to the right Sears specialist, I need you to tell me what type of service you'd like."

You're the specialist. Catch my drift?

"Sorry, I didn't catch that."

We're not exactly clicking here.

I think I'll hop into the car and let my GPS "woman" direct me to the actual meat market where, unlike actual women, the chipper prerecorded one will do her utmost to woo me over to the guava melons.

As for other messages that may bear fruit . . . Talk to you later, voicemail lady!

ANDY COWAN's credits include "Cheers" and "Seinfeld". He can be reached at -

Published: Jul 11,2008 19:03
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