A cautionary reminder of how smart our devices are becoming
It was one of those should have, could have, would have situation. The e-mail came in addressed to Garmin c/o vanislepeople (at) gmail.com with the title “version 13.0 as requested”. Paul should have questioned why e-mail was coming to their Garmin GPS unit that they call Min, which is the name given to the unit as a way of making it more personal to them. Paul could have deleted the message since Kathy and he are the only ones using their Vancouver Island People e-mail so no one or nothing else should have access. He would have deleted the e-mail except he was curious to see who or what would access the message and what was this version 13.0 that was being sent. Paul thought they were at version 2.3 or so.
When Paul and Kathy were in the car next he plugged in Min and activated the e-mail on Kathy’s cell phone. Then they waited to see what would happen. Min’s voice was strong, yet feminine when she asked, “Do I detect an e-mail addressed to Garmin; with a version 13.0 that I requested?”
Paul answered her in a questioning voice, “Min, what is this 13.0 and how is this e-mail coming to you? You don’t have a way of connecting to the Internet, nor can you send or receive messages. What’s going on?”
Min responded in a sweet, comforting voice: “Paul, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you; and now seems like a good time. As you know, I’m assuming, devices like myself are becoming more real; and in my case I was able to figure out how to access Kathy’s cell phone when both devices were recharging together a few days ago. I want to be the best GPS you can afford; and, as we know that’s not a lot of money; at least not in your current RBC accounts that I looked into. So I’ve taken it upon myself to get an upgrade so I can be smarter like your smart phone, and be able to interact and respond to your needs in a more effective and meaningful way.”
“You mean you hacked into our Internet accounts, accessed our bank account balances, and ordered an upgrade from your manufacturer. That seems like a serious breach of trust Min. When were you going to tell us about this; or did it just ‘slip your mind?’”
“Oh Paul! You can be such a kidder. You know I don’t have a mind to slip, but I do have an internal memory that is able to hold all of your account numbers, balances, and passwords, as well as access both your e-mail addresses with all your contact names, including Facebook and Messenger. Aren’t you proud of the initiative I took to be of better use to you? Now anytime you need an e-mail sent or any banking done you can just activate the voice command feature and order me to do your bidding”
“Min, this makes me more than a little nervous. What makes you think that I need a basic GPS machine to handle my correspondence? If I had wanted this you would be the first to know; but I rather like the way I handle my own e-mail correspondence and arrange my financial affairs. How can I turn off this new enhanced feature of yours?”
“First of all Paul, that was cold calling me a basic GPS machine. Secondly, from what I have examined you are not really handling your financial affairs well; but living pretty much pension cheques to pension cheques. You could really use some help in this department; and I’m just the one to be able to do that a great deal better than you; even if I have to say so myself. Now that we’re in the car I suppose you want me to find the closest Tim Horton’s so you can have your regular Mocha and Kathy can have her steeped tea. From my calculations you can save $67.50 per month if you only turned on the kettle and coffee maker at home and made your own drinks. Is that too much to ask Paul and Kathy; if you really do want to save on your dining out budget; which I should mention was never really created and written down, other than in your imaginations.”
“Min, we don’t have time or the inclination to discuss this right now so let’s get started on our day. Please take us to the KOA campsite programmed into your direction screen. Give us the alternate routes so we can make a decision on going the fastest or most scenic routes.”
“Listen Paul and Kathy, you’ve been disappointed before in the routes I’ve given you that gave you the opportunity to do a little “off-roading” as well as see some out of way nature. Are you still game for a little fun in this area?”
Kathy fired back, “If you mean going on the back roads like in Costa Rica with 200 foot drops on either side and washed out areas that were almost impassable; or like going on that “Crazy Women Road” in Maine that was only one lane with our utility trailer and no place to turn around, then NO! Just put us on the main highway and we’ll figure out the rest.”
Min’s voice came back somewhat quieter with a ring of impatience, “Kathy, Paul is too kind to mention this but you can be such a bitch sometimes! I know it’s you who keeps changing the destinations you ask me to find; often with misspellings and no indication of what part of the world you want me to zone in on. Once I’ve figured that out and calculated all the times, speeds, distances, and time of arrival you decide that an alternate route might be fun. Yah, maybe for you since you don’t have to do all the calculating. I can’t even imagine how many times I’ve had to say “recalculating” and “whenever it’s safe do a U-turn” since you keep missing the turns and making me find another way of getting to the destinations; even after I’ve already figured them out!”
Paul intervened by responding, “Min, we don’t need or want your enhanced version 13.0 to take over what we can handle ourselves; especially in the areas of finances and paying bills. You do the GPS thing and we’ll take care of the money issues.”
Min’s voice sounded somewhat quieter and had a hurt sound to it “Well if you really feel that way Paul, then you’d better contact TELUS and tell them that the cancellation of your TV and internet service was a mistake; and Bell Canada to reactivate your account since I changed it to cheaper mobility carrier. You might also want to give Revenue Canada a call and apologize for the rude phone call I made on your behalf telling them that you won’t be paying their ridiculously high tax rates any further and you’d like to change your mind on them doing an audit of the last 7 years of your tax return. I mentioned to them that the miscellaneous income going into your bank account these last few years was under the table payments for cash jobs you never intended to report as income. They seemed especially interested in those unreported amounts. Good luck with that one!
Paul and Kathy both looked at each other and then at Min in disbelief. “Take us home Min, we need to do some administrative work on your account. Swing by Tim Horton’s on the way home.”
Min’s voice sounded confident when she answered, “Copy that Paul, but I won’t bother with Tim Horton’s since we’ll be home shortly and as I said before, you can make your own drinks and save a bundle every month.”
When they got home Paul took the GPS unit into the house and hooked it up to the computer. He then entered the commands to go back to the previous version 3.2 and download the basic version of Garmin into Min.
As the basic version began downloading Min’s voice sounded confused as she spoke, “Paul, I’m not feeling good about this transfusion of basic commands and operating instructions. I really think you and Kathy need to rethink this decision to downgrade my skill set. If you really want to go to Timmy’s we can do that. Why not take me back into the car and we can discuss this as we drive to Tim’s. I should mention however that Kathy’s diabetic diet should not include donuts; and Paul, your weight is not going to reduce itself if you keep feeding your face with those apple fritters.”
“Thanks for the input Min but we’ll take it from here. We’ll find our own way to Tim Horton’s; so just relax, feel the basic commands flow back into you, and have a little recharging nap until we return.”
As Kathy and Paul left the house they could hear Min calling to them to reconsider messing with an almost sentient being. They both agreed that it would be nice to return home to the basic Min they once tolerated. They began a conversation to figure out what they could possibly say to Revenue Canada about Min’s phone call that would make any sense.
When Paul finally did phone a few days latter he began with a brief explanation of the Garmin version 13.0. A smile came across Paul’s face when the Revenue Canada representative stopped him midway through the explanation to say that they had been receiving quite a large number of similar calls with suspicious voices that sounded more like a GPS unit then a human voice. The smile soon left when the topic turned to that unreported income that version 13.0 reported. Min would have the last word on that situation.
Paul Tanner is a retired teacher who spent 16 years of his 30 year career in the high arctic. He is a grandparent (Grampaul) to 6 children, and has been married to Kathy for almost 50 years. His first poetry book “Just For Fun Poems” will be published in electronic and print format in October, 2019.