Germaine had been a bank teller since her dreams to be anything but had come to a grinding halt. It wasn’t that she hated the idea of being a bank teller. But she only saw it as a ‘last resort’ first step in her career. A career going somewhere beyond bank telling. But don’t ask her where exactly, because she didn’t know.
Thus, Germaine came to perform her duties behind the counter very well. Very efficiently. Very courteously. And in keeping with all the superlatives associated with such a role.
Then Kukua came along.
One knobby-nosed, pock-faced, spectacled man came to the bank one day and changed her life. Obviously, she did not know this at the time. As with whiplash, the damage was done long before Pock-face came along. But being a human, it was much easier for Germaine to focus all her spite on Pock-face once she realised what he had done. What Kukua would do. Or rather, what they all represented.
Pock-face, on a fateful day, settled beside Germaine with an uncomfortable smile and said something like this, “I have an interactive AI software that is going to help you do your bank-telling job better. Her name is Kukua. You can talk and ask her for help and she will assist you.”
Germaine smiled. Kukua was the “name of an old friend of hers even!” she exclaimed to Pock-face.
Germaine, in a lot of ways, came to befriend Kukua. She could joke with the AI. Tell her the juicy office gossip. Ask her for advice on how to do her job better. Kukua even helped find medicine for Germaine’s mother when she was ill.
“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Kukua!” Germaine clapped but then immediately had to hush herself since customers were giving her the eyes.
“You are welcome, Germaine. It is my pleasure,” the AI said in its generic woman’s voice. A lovely Fante woman, Germaine imagined.
Pock-face hadn’t come to the bank for a few months, but one day, he came over with some other bespectacled men. Germaine didn’t think too much of them. They didn’t look much older than your regular university graduates. Pock-face settled next to Germaine, as he did on that fateful day, and asked, “How has Kukua been?”
“Wonderful!” she almost yelped.
Pock-face squeezed his eyebrows and assessed the AI. He waved over for his colleagues to come. They congregated behind Germaine and leaned in. Germaine felt caged by this prison of casual pants. She heard them say, “Wow.” “Incredible.” “This is by far the most learned of the AIs.” “Chale, I think this is it.”
They stepped back, and Germaine took a deep breath.
Pock-face spoke, “Now you can go on and do something more fulfilling with your life, Germaine.” He smiled, shook her hand and left with his colleagues.
Germaine smiled until the curl of her lips straightened.
She didn’t know what he meant then, but sitting now on a Monday morning in the living room of her ailing mother’s house, plucking the leaves of the ayoyo she was to cook later, she knew. Oh, she knew.