Dan Rattiner's Stories

Siri the Fierce: My iPhone Tries Sending Me to San Francisco

I drove down the driveway of our home on Three Mile Harbor Road this morning and stopped before venturing out into traffic.

Siri, the woman on my iPhone, which was in my vest pocket, spoke. Why would she do that?

“Turn left down Three Mile Harbor Road,” she said through the cloth. I intended to do that. And I did. And as I drove along the road, heading toward town, I thought about it and thought I figured out why exactly she was talking to me.

The night before, we’d had friends over for dinner. At dinner, we got to talking about sports, and from sports to stadiums and from stadiums to the new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers. It is not in San Francisco. It is way down south of San Francisco, in Santa Clara.

A guest at the table said that was not too far, maybe no further than Manhattan to Citi Field in Queens. I told him it was much further.

To prove it, I took out my cellphone, we went to the map, punched in Santa Clara as a destination and San Francisco as a starting point, pressed the car icon, and up came a blue route whose details informed us this was 48 miles and an hour and 20 minutes drive.

“Forty-eight miles is like Manhattan to Ronkonkoma,” I said. “San Franciscans are not going that far to watch a game.”

We talked about other things, and then came dessert. I put the phone back in my pocket.

Now, on Three Mile Harbor Road, I thought to pull over to confirm what I thought Siri was up to. I pulled over. Apparently, in putting my phone away the night before, I had accidentally pushed the “my location” button. The map, still open, had now dutifully set me up for a long 46-hour, 3,200-mile drive across the country to Levi Stadium in Santa Clara. And the first instruction was to turn left coming out of my driveway.

The route, in blue, was quite an impressive piece of work. It went down to Main Street in East Hampton, then west along Montauk Highway to the Sunrise and ultimately to the Long Island Expressway. From there it went to the George Washington Bridge, where it picked up Route 80. This superhighway went clean across the country. It went through Pennsylvania and Ohio, swung south of Chicago and through Las Vegas and then continued on all the way to Market Street in San Francisco, where it ended. Imagine that. A single 3,100-mile run on a superhighway, from the GW Bridge to Market Street. At Market Street, of course, I’d veer off for the hour-and-a-half drive to Santa Clara and the new stadium. Football. Live and in person.

My goal that morning was not to go watch football in Santa Clara. It was to mail a Fed Ex letter from East Hampton to Washington. I would be putting it in a letter box on a street behind the Methodist Church just this side of the center of town. To get to it, I’d go onto North Main Street, pass under the railroad trestle and then immediately make a sharp left onto Hook Mill Lane, where the letter box would be 100 yards down.

That, I knew, would also throw me off course in my drive to California. Siri will be quite upset. Too bad. I went under the trestle, made the left, and the letter in the box.

“Turn right on Church Lane,” Siri said, very carefully.

Aha. Church Lane. That’s the street that hooks up with Hook Mill Lane right behind the Methodist Church. She was bringing me back up to Main Street, where I could turn right to continue on to California. Well, yes, I would do that, but at Main Street I would not turn right, I would turn LEFT. And after that, another left onto Accabonac, and then off to home.

I could not imagine Siri taking this kindly. She had gone to all this trouble, making this very elaborate itinerary for me, one I could still see clearly on my screen. Up I went on Church Street, and then at Main Street I turned LEFT. I was going the wrong way for California.

“Turn left onto Accabonac,” she said.

She was taking me home? Oh, no she wasn’t. I immediately realized what she was up to. She was going to have me circle around. She’d have me turn left onto Hook Mill Lane going the other way, and then get me back to Main Street heading west.

I was right. “Turn left onto Hook Mill Lane,” she said just before I got to it.

I ignored her. I continued on, and I went under the trestle and came up onto Collins Avenue. Collins would also take me up to North Main Street where, if I turned right, I could go home.

“Turn left onto Collins Avenue,” she said, keeping all her emotions carefully in check. She’d get me to the stadium. But I was on to her. “And then turn left onto North Main Street,” she said.

I made the left onto Collins, then, triumphantly, turned RIGHT onto North Main. What do you think of THAT, Siri?

Siri said nothing.

My first thought was that Siri was shocked I was doing this. All the work she’d done. And now I had refused her commands not only once, but twice. I was heading the wrong way. The whole situation was out of control.

But then I thought it was NOT out of control. She was re-thinking this. She was recalculating. She was going to fight to right this ship.

If you make the right from Collins onto North Main Street, just 100 yards ahead there’s a left that takes you up Cedar Street, past the firehouse to another way of getting me turned around.

But she said nothing. I drove past Cedar and proceeded on, the wrong way, up toward home.

It did occur to me she might have missed this because that left onto Cedar had come up so fast, and she was still recovering from the shock of what I had just done.

Turns at this point would take me miles out of my way to get me back on track. She knew it. I knew it. And so she still said nothing.

Our home is exactly two miles up Three Mile Harbor Road from North Main Street. I headed up. It was amazing how calm she had stayed through all of this. If it were me, I would be hysterical by now. A mile and a half up, she finally spoke.

“Make a right onto Abraham’s Path,” she said. It was all soothing and sweet. Like nothing had happened. This was her Hail Mary.

Of course, I didn’t make that turn. Going straight, I got to my driveway and turned in.

I was at my garage. A dead end. She was now back in my pocket, but bursting, speechless in frustration. How could this have happened? Where was that stadium? The stadium still loomed. The crowd was cheering as the players came out of the locker room, down the runway and through the smoke and onto the field.

Know what I think? I think Siri should serve as an inspiration for us all. She has a will of iron, and the nerves of a test pilot. It is an astonishing achievement that Apple landed her for this job.

Long live Siri.

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