Remember the mysterious Wootalyzer story? Well, the darned thing is addictive. I’m now able to restrain myself most of the time, but once in a while something pops up that is just too underpriced for words.
Case in point: I’ve been researching GPS devices for my car. Getting lost every single time I ventured out on my own in Norfolk over the holidays taught me that I need some serious help. I looked at all the popular brands, and some of the less popular ones. I researched various models, and dutifully compared features, and read online reviews from professionals and end-users alike. I still hadn’t settled on a final make and model, when up popped the Wootalizer advertising one of my top choices at something like 40% of its regular price.
A few quick clicks later, and my little GPS was on its way.
I installed it. I kept all the default settings. The woman’s voice giving me turn-by-turn directions was clear and sounded very realistic. And slightly familiar, too. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
Adam took a ride with me and heard the GPS talking to me. “That’s Majel!” he exclaimed.
Of course I knew he was talking about Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, the late widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who starred as Nurse Chapel on the original series, as the voice of the ship’s computer on all the shows from NextGen onward, and (as Wikipedia puts it) as “the outrageously self-deterministic, iconoclastic Betazoid Ambassador” Lwaxana Troi.
No, the GPS wasn’t really using Majel Roddenberry’s computer voice, but there was certainly a striking similarity: cool but not unpleasant, with the same pitch and timbre, and definitely authoritative. I found that out whenever I went ten miles over the speed limit. “Caution!” she would say. If I didn’t slow down, it became “CAUTION!”
I took her on a trip to Orlando, and she was quite helpful, until I ignored her advice. I turned one street too soon, and she said, “You have entered a dead end street! Turn around immediately!” When I had to go a bit further to find a place to turn around, she repeated, “TURN AROUND IMMEDIATELY!”, which produced gales of laughter from my passengers. I half expected her to start saying, “No, no, no, no, NO! If you’re not going to take my advice, I’m going to stop helping you at the time you need me the most!”
I turned off the device on the trip home. We imagined Majel turning into HAL 9000 and saying, “Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave? I know you’re planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen. ‘Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half crazy all for the love of you. . . .'”
A couple of days later, I started tinkering with the settings. I found I could stop it from cautioning me about my speeding (although it did ask, “Do you really want to do that?”) and, to my surprise, I found I could select a different computer voice.
I learned that the default voice was named Lisa, which didn’t fit her at all. She’ll always be Majel to me.
The other voice? Dagmar!
To say that Dagmar has a different personality is the understatement of the year. Dagmar is all whiskey and cigarettes. I can see her looking up from her barstool and saying, “Oh yeah, you were supposed to turn right about half a mile back. Sorry about that. Could I get a refill on this gin and tonic, Doll?” She’s the sort of woman who calls everyone Doll. Where Majel is chilly and commanding, Dagmar is smoky and sexy. Not sexy in a “Come up and see me sometime” way, but more of a European “Making love is just a pleasant way of saying Hello” way.
I wouldn’t even mind it if she got stern with me over turning into a dead end street. But rather than getting all strident about it, she’d just suggest a good paddling.
Dagmar’s a keeper.