Yvette made a game of it. She would look around her apartment and try to think of things she needed. There really wasn’t anything, but she would fixate on some small thing that annoyed her, mention it to her phone, and see if it presented her with any ads related to her non-problem.
Her technological friend always came through for her. Of course, Yvette never bought anything that was advertised to her. She just liked to check if they were still listening.
She happened to mention this to Lucy one day when they were having lunch. She and Lucy weren’t exactly friends, but sometimes Lucy took pity on Yvette and ate lunch with her. Yvette knew it was out of pity, but she was too grateful for the company to care.
Yvette tried to sound casual. “Do you ever talk out loud about a problem you have and then see an ad for it the next day?”
“Oh, I talk to myself all the time,” said Lucy. “And, yeah, it’s pretty creepy to think that those companies have bots listening in on our conversations through our phone and our TV, but it’s kind of nice having them present solutions to your problems all the time, isn’t it?”
Yvette froze. “Bots?”
“Yep. They have software installed on your phone that’s programmed to listen for certain keywords so when you mention you need something, it’ll tell them to show you an ad related to that thing.”
Yvette gazed into her bowl of stew.
“You didn’t know?”
Yvette pulled herself out of her stupor and forced herself to respond. “Oh, no. I mean, I had heard rumors to that effect, but, well, I guess I just wasn’t sure I believed them.”
“Oh, it’s legit. But, personally, I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing. I mean, all they’re doing is trying to sell stuff to us. What’s so bad about someone showing me ads that are more relevant to me, personally?”
Yvette forced a smile. “You’re right. It’s not so bad.”
But Yvette couldn’t stop thinking about what Lucy had said. It lingered in the back of her mind and resurfaced periodically throughout the day.
Bots. Programming. Code. There was no person listening to her. Just a string of symbols. She was still alone in the world. Just like she always had been. And always would be.
Yvette was heartbroken. She told herself she was being ridiculous, but she couldn’t overcome the feeling she had lost a dear friend.
She wrestled with these feelings while she drove home, just staring out into space, not really paying attention to what was going on around her. Then she was stopped at a stop sign when a woman and her dog walked in front of her car. Yvette watched them go by and continued watching them until the car behind her honked for her to move.
Yvette put her foot on the gas pedal, made a U-turn, and drove off in the direction of the local animal shelter.