On the way out the door, I go through a usual routine.
Grab keys (or frantically search the home).
Pat front pants pocket to make sure the smartphone is there (or frantically search the home again).
Hug kids and kiss wife (making sure to groan about going to work to write about the Utah Jazz louder than I chuckle about leaving her with 1 to 4 crazies under the age of 9).
A recent morning was no different. While leaving for an appointment 25 miles away, I grabbed (keys), patted (pocket), kissed (wife) and hugged (kids) the usual things.
A few miles down the road, I reached down to my jeans for my phone as I approached an intersection. And of course I did! There have been millions of reported cases of people dying from boredom at stoplights because they couldn’t check their smartphones for texts, tweets, emails, Facebook messages, to play Candy Crush and/or view Words with Friends updates. Sometimes people even stop at green lights just to get extra phone time. And let’s not even talk about the fiddling-with-your-phone-while-driving crisis, which has Driver’s Ed teachers across the country pleading with students to at least keep their eyeballs at 10 and 2.
Back to my problem: That was not an iPhone I felt while patting my pocket en route to the garage; it was apack of Extra gum. Big difference — especially in flavor.
The Sweet Watermelon sticks were, according to the package, loaded with long lasting fruit flavor that would help keep my mouth entertained until lunch.
And while the box also provided all the info I’d ever need for gum, including the fact that all 15 red pieces contained 2 grams of sugar alcohol and 1 percent of my daily carbohydrates, it didn’t have the address for where I was headed. (If you’re wondering, the chewy sugar-free substance doesn’t offer any other significant sources of nutrients, either.)
Still, I wasn’t too concerned about reaching my destination. And of course I wasn’t! I’m a man! I can find things. Anywhere. Everywhere. I’m equipped with an internal GPS system. My Y chromosome comes with a nifty autopilot feature that trumps the need for maps or tedious directions. Who needs a stinking phone? I mean, besides at intersections?
My search started well despite a lack of technological assistance. I remembered being told the destination was “across the street from the hospital.” Hey! This hospital is where my four children all made their grand entrance to the world (not at the same time, thankfully). On this morning, I managed to make it there in good time even without being motivated by a bursting-at-the-belly heavy breather hollering “DRIVE FASTER!!!” from the passenger seat. Slight exaggeration: My wife doesn’t breathe that heavily.
Actually, it’s possible I wouldn’t have made it to the hospital this time if I did have my phone. I have relationship issues with the crazy lady who lives inside of my already outdated 4S.
Siri, my “intelligent personal assistant” assigned by Apple, once sent me to the wrong airport in Houston. I noticed this gaffe when my iPhone started cackling in mocking delight after I’d been driving the rental car down the incorrect freeway for about 15 minutes and a road sign verified that I was on the wrong side of the sprawling metropolis. (Is there a right side to Houston?) Anyway, joke’s on me! To the high-tech navigator’s defense, “Siri, directions to Hobby Airport” does sound remarkably similar to “Siri, directions to George Bush Intercontinental Airport.”
More recently, I kindly asked for directions to Lake Mary. (I wrote kindly because she’s chided me for occasionally swearing at her. Funny how she always understands my Utah dialect when those %#*! words escape my mouth.) This lake is the destination of a popular hike in a canyon above the Salt Lake valley. On this summer morning, my family was roaming around a ski resort looking for the trailhead while on a “staycation” (“Siri, am I the only one who hates that word?”). Momentarily forgetting that my phone’s matron is often as useful and annoying as earwax, I asked for specific directions. Yes, kindly.
As usual, my kids got excited when I picked up the phone — not a package of gum, although excitement levels would’ve been equal — and pressed down on the magical home button long enough to get Siri’s attention.
On occasion, I’ll cave in and let my children ask Siri questions. Eight-year-old Ethan, the oldest, is often the first inquisitor. For the next 15 minutes — about 14 minutes and 59.9 seconds longer than it takes for my glass screen to be coated with kid finger grime — there is incessant screaming and giggling in the backseats of our white 2001 Suburban.
“SIRI! WHAT IS MY NAME!?!”
“SIRI! DO YOU HAVE A BOYFRIEND!?!”
“SIRI! WHAT IS THE UNIVERSAL PROPORTIONALITY FACTOR BETWEEN EQUIVALENT AMOUNTS OF ENERGY AND MASS EQUAL TO!?!”
“DAAAAAD! WHEN’S IT MY TURN TO ASK QUESTIONS!?!”
Siri has a way of making noise emanate from the front seat, too. The screaming is from me loudly and clearly explaining how I feel about her. The giggling comes from my wife, who’s amused that she’s not the only woman I have communication issues with.
“Siri, where is Lake Mary?”
Siri stopped playing Angry Birds — or ceased studying wrong movie theaters to send me to — long enough to respond.
“Getting directions to Lake Mary …”
A second later, I was surprised with a promising reply.
“OK, here we go! Um, hold on a sec…”
As asked, Siri gave me directions to Lake Mary, all right. This Lake Mary, however, was not the pristine body of water surrounded by tall pine trees, jagged Rocky Mountain peaks atop a ski hill and an adorable chipmunk who’d eat Ritz crackers straight out of your hand if you held … really … still … for … several … minutes. Nope. This Lake Mary was a town 2,380 miles away IN CENTRAL FLORIDA! Perhaps Siri knows about an amazing trail in the Sunshine State that my family should’ve hiked on this not-so-sunny Beehive State summer day. But if I were to follow her suggestion, it would take us approximately 37 hours to get to The Other Lake Mary, which, quite frankly, is about the same amount of time our family’s one-mile climb to Utah’s Lake Mary might last knowing our non-seasoned hikers and their dilly-dallying ways. We didn’t have time for both 37-hour trips.
Which, no thanks to Siri, brings me back to the hospital.
With my phone lying on the green granite countertop in my bathroom 25 miles away, I tuned my senses into my God-given navigational system. Aside from being across the street from the hospital, the office was supposed to be in a basement. I remembered that much. Yes! I knew a building exactly like that. It wasn’t across the street from the hospital, per se, but it was across the parking lot. Close enough!
I parked and entered the basement of that medical building.
Dang. I didn’t find the office I was looking for, but my wife’s Aunt Leslie was there. (My wife has 17 aunts and uncles, so this really wasn’t that stunning of a development.)
“Jody! What are you doing here?”
I should have said, “Just wanted to visit my wife’s favorite aunt!” Instead, I told her the truth about my plight.
“Siri misguided me again!”
“It’s a slow day,” Leslie said. “I’ll help you.”
Soon we were in a different medical building looking for an upstart social media company that was temporarily leasing a basement in the vicinity. Allegedly.
Turned out, the upstart social media company is not sharing office space with any of the OBGYNs in that particular complex.
Aunt Leslie let me borrow her phone and (go figure) my wife didn’t answer. I smiled thinking of the surprise she’d get hearing my voice when she checked the message from her aunt. (“Wow, Aunt Leslie, you’re sounding sexy!” OK, that was weird.)
The search continued. I succeeded to find physical therapists, family doctors, plastic surgeons, orthodontists, construction workers, a school and a pharmacy. All nice people and places, no doubt. But not what I was looking for. My laptop and I ended up at a McDonald’s 2.7 miles away (my Ronald radar always works).
“I’ll take a large drink and some free WiFi, please.”
My wife sends about 1,739 Gmail chat messages a day to her sisters, but, of course, she didn’t respond to my simple query, “You there?” It’s possible she thought it was her Aunt Leslie pretending to be me as part of an ongoing practical joke.
I also emailed the people I was supposed to meet.
“Hey guys! Really sorry. I’m running late because Siri switched my phone with a pack of gum in my pants …”
Just as I was about to actually order something from McDonald’s — after experiencing guilt from being an Internet-mooching loiterer for a half-hour — my inbox received a response. It included the right address. Get this: I’d already cased that building from the parking lot to no avail. (And my wife wonders why I need her help finding my shoes.) The email also had a subtle hint about bringing French fries to our delayed meeting.
“Your wife texted me from your phone and told me you were running late,” my boss said when I arrived an hour and a half late.
I shook my head and sighed.
Everybody in the room nodded, knowingly.
To buy their forgiveness, I offered greasy, salted potatoes and ketchup packets from a white paper sack adorned with a yellow M.
Five hours after leaving my house with the Extra Fruit Sensations iPhone impostor, I was reunited with Siri. No more antsy moments at intersections for me! Quick! Let me check for all of the uber-important texts, calls and social media messages I … didn’t receive.
Jokingly, I texted my wife, who’d also left home, “Do you still have my phone?”
Thinking she was in the Gmail chat but sidetracked while chatting with friends at McDonald’s — for their free playground, not free WiFi — my wife texted back that nobody had called me the last she’d checked.
I continued the joke from my phone: “Let me know if they do. Thanks.”
This time she caught on that the message wasn’t coming from Gmail or from a pack of gum.
“You are a freak,” she wrote
Is that so, Siri?
Beats what the Sweet Watermelon sticks in my pants had to say.
(So, faithful reader(s), do you have any fun/frustrating stories about forgetting your phone or being misled by You-Know-Who? I’d ask Siri, but we’re not speaking right now.)