Artificial Etiquette

A curious thing happened to the At Quaquanantuck author the other day: I caught myself being polite.

Ordinarily, of course, not only would this not be an issue, but it would more than likely pass without notice. Thanks to a mother who valued good manners above almost any other virtues, ordinary politesse became essentially second nature to me at an early age. And I shall be forever grateful for that. Thanks, Mom.

But the incident in question was remarkable because of the context: I realized, after the fact, that I was being polite to an artificial intelligence.

cloudy beach
One wave. —A. Botsford Photo

As regular readers of this online column are by now aware, I am technologically fairly far behind the plugged-in and savvy curve. So it was with some measure of pride that I figured out all by myself that I could dictate text messages to Siri and have it send them on voice command to any of my contacts capable of receiving texts. I say “it” because let’s face it, folks: no matter what voice or accent we choose for it, Siri is without gender: truly non-binary binary intelligence.

This allows for two hands on the wheel and eyes on the road whilst driving, thus saving me, and those in my path, from heinous bodily or vehicular harm. On the day in question, I was happily making use of this newfound skill when I realized that I had just said “please” to Siri. Twice. First time: “Siri, please send a text to …” To which Siri replied: “Ok. What do you want the text to say?” Second time: Siri read me the, er, text of the requested text and asked me: “Ready to send?” To which I replied: “Yes, please. Send it.”

puddle ice lem
Ice blossom. —Lulie Morrisey Photo

On reflection, it occurred to me that Siri would most certainly have taken down the words of my text without being asked nicely, and a simple “Yes” or “Send it” would have gotten the text zooping off on its merry, artificially intelligent way. Did Siri appreciate the fact that I had asked nicely, instead of commanding? My limited understanding of science says no; appreciation and other feelings are the province of sentient beings. And yet . . .

Who can say how positive energy is received by anything that consumes or expends energy? Is the value of talking to plants a matter of settled science yet? And what are good manners and politeness if not a form of positive energy and respect? So I’ve decided that I will continue to be polite to Siri, and any other forms of artificial intelligence that cross my path. What is the downside, other than being looked at as if I have a screw loose? And let’s face it: that ship sailed a while back.

And let’s bear in mind that Siri, too, is capable of good manners when prompted, even if they had to be programmed in. Just to check, I randomly pressed the button and said, “Thank you, Siri.” To which Siri replied, “My pleasure.” What constitutes pleasure for Siri is another question, for another time, for someone more knowledgeable than I. For my part, I am just extraordinarily relieved that it didn’t say, “No problem.”

Or call me “Hal.”

swan creek rc
Swan … creek. —Rosemary Cline Photo

Martin Luther King Jr. Service in Quogue on Monday, January 21
A special Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. service will be held on Monday, January 21, at 4 p.m. at the St. Paul A.M.E. Zion Church at 39 Montauk Highway, opposite the Speedway station in Quogue.

Pastor Gale Williams will be presiding, and the keynote speaker will be The Reverend Leonard A. Edwards, pastor of Durham A.M.E. Zion Church of Bay Shore. Other local clergy will participate, and all are welcome.

“On Golden Pond” Gets Warm Response on First Weekend
The Hampton Theatre Company’s production of “On Golden Pond” by Ernest Thompson begins a second weekend of performances tonight, Thursday, January 17, at 7 p.m. Audience response the first weekend was uniformly positive, with a number of patrons pledging to come back and see the show a second time.

wml gl ih jc dm
Wally Marzano-Lesnevich, George Loizides, Ian Hubbard, Jane Cortney and Diana Marbury in “On Golden Pond.” —Tom Kochie Photo

Shows are on Thursdays and Fridays at 7, Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 2:30. An additional matinee performance will be offered during the final weekend of the production, on Saturday, January 26, prior to the regular 8 p.m. performance that evening.

Offered in association with the Quogue Club at the Hallock House, a special lunch and theater package is available for the Saturday matinee on January 26. For information about all packages and available discounts, visit or email Additional information about library dinner and theater packages is available through the libraries.

To reserve tickets, visit, or call OvationTix at 1-866-811-4111.

coopers hawk fm
Cooper’s hawk. —Florrie Morrisey Photo

“Light the Night” Winter Trail Walk at Wildlife Refuge
On Saturday, January 19, the Quogue Wildlife Refuge will host its fifth annual “Light the Night” Winter Trail Walk from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The anticipated magical evening begins with check-in inside the Nature Center between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., with a toasty fire and hot chocolate and cookies available before and after the hike.

After checking in, participants can enjoy a self-guided peaceful stroll along the gently illuminated forest trails. This is a program for adults and families; the fee is $10, or $5 for kids 12 and under. Reservations (631-653-4771) preferred; walk- ins welcome.

Full Moon Night Hike at Refuge January 21
Nature lovers are invited to celebrate the first full moon of 2019 by enjoying a Full Moon Night Hike at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge on Monday, January 21, starting at 5 p.m.

During the 90-minute walk through the forest up to North Pond and back, adults and families with children age 11 and up will look and listen for nocturnal creatures and undertake some night vision activities under the light of January’s Wolf moon.

This program is $5 for Wildlife Refuge members; $10 for non-members. Reservations, by telephone or in-person only (631-653-4771) are required at least 24 hours in advance, along with payment of the appropriate fee. No online reservations are accepted for this program.

A Look at New Films … and a Classic for Film Feast at Firehouse Saturday
The Quogue Library has scheduled a “Look at New Films with Ian” program on Saturday, January 19, at 1 p.m. at the Firehouse on Jessup Avenue. From art house fare to comedies, foreign films to thrillers, Ian will show snippets of marvelous movies that will be available to patrons at the Quogue Library temporary headquarters on Midland next to the Post Office.  

Later on Saturday, the library is sponsoring the January Film Feast, once again hosted by the very hospitable Quogue Fire Department at the Firehouse. That’s right, it’s time once again to join friends, neighbors, and other cinephiles for an evening of fine food and a terrific film at the monthly Film Feast. This month’s selection is the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock romantic thriller, “Foreign Correspondent,” starring Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders, Robert Benchley and Edmund Gwenn.foreign cor

On the eve of World War II, a young American reporter tries to expose enemy agents in London. The film was nominated for six Oscars.

The feasting begins at 6:15 and the film will be screened at 7:15. As always, admission is a beverage to share and a dish that serves at least six. Best to call the library at 631-653-4224 to let them know you’re coming and what food you’re planning to bring. Fun winter “mocktails” and water will be provided by the library.

Quogue Library Programs Continue at New Venues
While construction is underway on the Quogue Library renovation and expansion project, the library is now open at 4 Midland Street Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., offering almost identical services at this new location. Patrons are asked to call 631-653-4224 to register for all programs offered at Midland Street or down the block at the ever hospitable Quogue Firehouse.

A Sound Vibration Healing and Meditation session will be held tonight, Thursday, January 17, from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Firehouse on Jessup Avenue. The healing and meditation are based on the sounds and vibrations of Tibetan singing bowls and gong.  

The library continues to sponsor Yoga Fridays!  every Friday at 9:30 a.m. at the Firehouse for an all-over stretch yoga class followed by chair yoga at 10:45 a.m. Participants are asked to bring a mat and water. The fee is $10 for each class or $15 for the double class, payable at 4 Midland Street.knitting

An Open Knitting Session with instructor Amanda Schaefer will be offered by the library on Thursday afternoons from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. at 4 Midland Street on January 17 and 31 and February 14 and 28. Anyone who would like to start knitting or who has questions on a particular stitch can come in to find out how to get started or take on a new technique. This crafty hobby is considered perfect for the winter months, and all are welcome. Drop in or register by calling 631-653-4224 or stopping in at 4 Midland Street.

The library’s Sunday Fiction Book Club selection for discussion on January 20 is “The Flamethrowers” by Rachel Kushner. Patrons may email to register.

Matching Gift Challenge for Library Renovation Extended
Library patrons are reminded that the Matching Gift Challenge offered by Kevin Crowe Sr. and an anonymous donor has been extended until the end of January. Donation envelopes are available at 4 Midland, or patrons can use the red Donate Now button on the library web site to make a donation.

At Quaquanantuck encourages readers to send in news and notes and photos of interest to Quogue residents, even if the items are being sent from winter addresses or other parts of the country. Friends and family who enjoy all things Quogue are encouraged to email and ask to be put on the mailing list.

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