“Just go.”; She ordered ‘Victor’, her automated ‘driver’; as she climbed into the vacant back seat. It was at least the third fight she’d had with her husband this week (and it was only Tuesday). Despite the tersely delivered order, the car failed to screech out of the driveway as she had hoped. In manners of the heart, there was a certain timeline one has to keep when conveying a message of aggravation. Squealing the tires out of the driveway wasn’t possible in modern electric cars anymore. That was deemed too dangerous. Engineers had long since built-in safety measures to prevent tire slippage.
“Why aren’t you going, Victor?”; She demanded. All she needed was for her husband to come outside and continue the fight while she was still in the driveway. “Go! Go! Goooooo!” The car still failed to respond. Her impatience grew exponentially. “Drive. Just drive.”; She hissed.
Victor addressed her in his normal, courteous manner. As far as she knew, his unthreatening, positive banter was the only way he could respond. “Ma’am, where do you want to ‘go, go, gooooo?’ I can not ‘drive’ without a predetermined destination. I have to estimate all the fuel consumption requirements first. Otherwise I might accidentally strand you somewhere without an effective means of returning you back home to Charles.”
“I don’t want to return home to Charles! Sheesh, don’t you get it? Right now I want to be AWAY from him. Far, far away. Is that too much to ask?”
“Ma’am, I’ve searched all of my geographical databases but I can not locate ‘away’ on any continental maps. Could you be more specific or provide an alternate street address? It would be my pleasure to take you to your desired destination as soon as a route has been planned and fuel consumption requirements are determined.”
Margot wanted to scream. The damn driverless car was just as useless as Charles was. Everything had to be planned out to the letter. Victor clearly had no spontaneous button either. “Just go to the damn park.”; She shrieked. Before the car tried in vain to locate ‘Damn park’ and got bogged down in a quagmire of human syntax, she offered more clarification. “Stevens Park. Go to Stevens Park on Reston Street.” Her eyes actually hurt from rolling them in mock-disgust.
Finally the car took off for the first destination of the day that it could actually fulfill. Just as Margot was starting to calm down and relax from all the friction at home, Victor started offering shortcut choices. “We can eliminate seven minutes off our travel time by taking an alternate route through Zest boulevard. Would you like me to alter our course?”
“I don’t care.”; She answered dismissively. Unfortunately, Victor required a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ reply. Any ambiguous response failed to resolve the question. Ordinary, his programming would just pick the best route but once he offered his host an option, he was required to wait for a decision. Not understanding this limitation, she proceeded to ignore him until his incessant prompts forced her to choose. “Yes, go ahead and take Zest Boulevard. I really don’t care.”
“Unfortunately, we have already passed the intersection now, Ma’am. I must apologize, it appears we will be eight minutes late. According to the train scheduling computer I have been communicating with, the 104 South line is blocking the crossing.”
Margot wanted to scream in frustration at the technological gridlock but resisted. Doing so might inspire Victor to take her to the hospital for first aid, instead. “Don’t you see Victor? I’m not in any hurry. I just want some peace and quiet. You might not be able to understand but in my case at the moment, the destination isn’t as important as the journey, itself.”
“Ah, I see Madam. You’d rather have nice scenery. According to my search engine, there is another route with some scenic vistas along….”
She cut him off, mid sentence. “Victor, please! Focus. I just want peace and quiet for the duration of whichever route you take, ok?” She exercised as much patience as she could muster for a clueless machine that hadn’t quite mastered the subtle art of reading human social queues yet. Artificial intelligence had come a long way but it still had a way to go.
“Yes ma’am. I understand. I will maintain full communication silence for the remainder of the journey and make all nonessential decisions on my own.”
“Thank you Victor. I just need some time to myself.” She closed her eyes and tried to put all of her worries and recent aggravation aside. For the next four minutes, it was smooth sailing. The car drove at its normal speed and handled navigation of the roadway just as it was designed to.
“Ma’am? I’m sorry to break your request for silence but you have an incoming call from Charles. Shall I patch it back there to you?” Margot gnashed her teeth in anger.
“NO! Do NOT transfer the call back here! He’s the reason we are on this little quest, Victor. I needed to get away from him and his infuriating nonsense. I wish to have no more communication with him for the foreseeable future. Is that clear?”
“Yes Ma’am. I’ll advise him that you are not available ‘for the foreseeable future’. It seems that my database doesn’t explain just how long that is. Will you update me on exactly when ‘foreseeable’ expires?”
“Yes. Yes. I’ll let you knowwww.”; She whispered hoarsely. Margot buried her face in her hands to stifle a rising tide of obscenities at her digital tormentor.
“Excuse me again. Charles says it’s urgent. It seems you left your purse at home and there is a nominal fee to enter the park. Without monetary funds, entering your destination will not be possible. He says…”
“You told him where I’m going? Why the hell would you do that? It’s none of his damn business!”; She snarled furiously.
“I beg your forgiveness, Ma’am. He asked me where we were going. My programming doesn’t allow me to be deceitful but if the destination was a private matter I could have perhaps been more obtuse. That is within my parameters I believe. It’s a matter of public record anyway. Charles has the travel log updated automatically to all of his social media accounts.”
“You mean everyone in his social circle sees when you drive me to the gynecologist or the liquor store? Oh my gawd! I’m soooo humiliated! Just go ahead and drive me off the nearest cliff, next!” She continued to fume in embarrassed rage.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that Ma’am. To comply with that request would mean grave bodily injury to you and catastrophic damage to me, your automobile. The first national bank still has partially ownership of this vehicle until the final eleven payments are made. I’m sorry but it is my duty to report all dangerous passenger requests to the proper authorities.”
“Wait! Wait! Don’t call, please. I wasn’t serious about that. It was just a rhetorical remark. I was angry. It’s not something I really wanted you to do.”
“You had no intention of going to Stevens park?”
Margot lost her last remaining iota of patience. She started to yell and scream at the top of her lungs like a child having a huge temper tantrum. Despite just being a labor-saving machine, it was almost like Victor was being deliberately difficult. “Of course I wanted to go to the damn park, you idiot! It was driving off the nearest cliff that I wasn’t serious about! Just let me out right here! Pull over. Now! I’ll just walk. I can’t take any more of this; ‘who’s on first’ madness.”
Victor was conflicted. Margot said she wasn’t serious about wanting him to drive off the nearest cliff but she was extremely agitated. Perhaps she was being deceitful about that to hide her madness. It was already determined that she didn’t possess any currency to pay for the park admission. Logic dictated that if one destination wasn’t possible and she knew that, the other scenario was probable. He locked the back doors to protect her from her dangerous instability and mental breakdown.
“Would you like to hear some music, Ma’am? According to a popular expression I just came across on an internet search, ‘it soothes the savage beast’. Not that I’m suggesting you are a beast, Ma’am. According to almost all parameters of human beauty standards, you are visually attractive.”
Victor experienced an emotional response that almost approached human pride. He felt he expressed himself extremely well. He was growing as an artificial intelligence being and making great progress. Charles even commended him on handling the delicate situation with wisdom, levity and tact.
Margot began to yank on the car door handle violently but it was of no use. Victor controlled the door locks. She began to cry and beg and plead. Those were all disturbing stages of psychological breakdown according to WebMD and other sources. Like all of his passengers, her mental health and safety was his priority. Despite the furious protests by Margot and her pounding on the divider glass, he didn’t release the door locks until they reached Springdale asylum. He was happy. Soon, she would be repaired.