Dan Rattiner's Stories

A Third Arm: Instant Wisdom, Time Machine, Siri, Directions, News, Reviews

Question: What is the single most horrible scene possible to watch at the movies?

Answer 1: A giant shark ripping a human apart.

Answer 2: Earth crashing into the sun.

Answer 3: Someone angry throwing a cell phone against the wall.

I submit that our cell phones are considered an appendage. If one is destroyed, it’s like having your arm pulled out of its socket. If one is lost, that person’s entire life grinds to a halt. Teams of people are volunteered into your attempt to find it. They call your number. But you left the ringer off. Your heart rate goes up to 145 (which you could know if only had your cell phone). You get irrational. Did YOU steal it? Give it back!

People on airplanes who discover they’ve forgotten their cell phones take the next plane back. They go into mourning.

“How are you today?” Siri asks.

“Same as yesterday.”

The other day, at a party, I spoke to a very wealthy man I know who three days earlier was talked into buying a smartphone.

“I’ve gone back to my old flip phone,” he said. “I’ll tell you why. Someone sent me their home address in an email. Then yesterday, somebody was showing me how to use Google Maps, and before I could punch in the address I wanted, a message asked me if the address I wanted was the one in my email.”

“So?” I asked.

“They are reading my email. This address was in my email. That was that, as far as I am concerned.”

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.

“They are reading my email,” he repeated.

“You can always erase your history,” said a woman overhearing this conversation.

Personally, I will never erase my history. I’m a showoff. When I die, I want people to go through all my emails. I want them to see what I thought and did, remember I was here, remember everything. What a guy, I want them to say to one another.

I consider that the invention of the smartphone is right up there with having an opposable thumb.

I remember the first wonderful thing that smartphones did. They ended the tyranny of running to answer the phone in your house whenever it rang—no matter what you were doing. How did we ever put up with that?

The next wonderful thing I discovered the smartphones did was put an end to waiting impatiently on line. On line, I’d take it out. I’d open Time Machine, an app I have. Inside Time Machine, there are two settings you have to make. You pick a year between 1900 and 2016, and you pick a category. These are News, Sports, TV, Music, Games or Movies. Once you have both, automatically, Time Machine begins to play a short video from that year in that category. For example, if you line up 1943 and Sports you get… Well, I just did that. It’s random. So what I just got was a video of Vancouver’s Callister Exhibition Park Rodeo of 1943. It’s the bronco busting competition, 6 minutes and 32 seconds of it. Try another. How about 1943 Movies? I got a 7-minute Looney Tunes cartoon called “Puss and Boots.”

What?

Am I holding up the line? Wait a moment. I want to see the end.

Know what? I’ll bet very few of you know of Time Machine. So now you do. Know what else? Sit for a few minutes with anybody you know who has a smartphone and go over the things they use it for. Guaranteed you will find something new and useful from every single person you do that with.

Ever notice that people in a restaurant sometimes put their cell phone alongside their place setting when they sit down? It’s in case somebody you know sends you a text. You could spend 10 seconds texting back. Nobody you’d know.

Or it’s in case something comes up that somebody might want to know. In the old days before cell phones, we’d just sit there, stumped. There’s only so much you can know unless you want to go to a library. So what else do you want to talk about?

Now, something comes up in conversation. Is Hillary older than Bill? We find out.

Who, before Fulton, invented the steamboat?

Where is Chad, the country? Explain the hanging chad. Isn’t that fellow sitting across from us Chad? I have a photo of my Chad. Here. Look.

Let me show you Peyton Manning’s last pass in the Super Bowl, a two-point conversion.

What was the last line in Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on First?

At that party, I tried to turn my Wall Street friend away from the dark side.

Let me show you my Google search history, I tell him. A shocking offer, from his perspective. I make him look over my shoulder. These are the last 10 things I wanted to know.

Republican polls 2016 New Hampshire: Self-explanatory.

Arizona gets statehood: Wanted to know if Arizona’s Barry Goldwater was born before Arizona was a state. By two years, he wasn’t. But he ran for President, though not a “natural born citizen.” Take THAT, Trump.

Harry Truman education: I wanted to know if President Truman had ever gone to college. He hadn’t.

Marco Rubio education: Someone at dinner said it was an Ivy League school. Not even close. South Florida University.

Scott Turow best books: I’d read Presumed Innocent published in 1987. Wanted to read what was considered another really good book by him. There weren’t any.

Year of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation: An old friend, when young, had been at it and danced with the Queen. When was that? It was 1953.

Valentine’s Day film: A film about to be shown on the Hampton Jitney Ambassador. What reviews did it get? Pretty bad.

Sean Ludwick bio: He’s a prominent Manhattan skyscraper builder accused of causing the death of Sag Harbor real estate man Paul Hansen while driving while intoxicated and eventually hitting a utility pole in Noyac. The indictment charged Ludwick with nine crimes and four traffic violations, namely three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, one count of vehicular manslaughter in the first-degree, one count of manslaughter in the second degree, one charge of leaving the scene, two counts of driving while intoxicated, one count of aggravated driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, speeding, failure to stay in a single lane and driving on the shoulder or slope of the roadway. Hansen had been in the passenger seat.

At Ludwick’s arraignment, he paid the $1 million bond and was released. He was arrested two weeks later at his home in Bridgehampton after he was deemed a flight risk by authorities.

According to authorities, he had been trying to buy a 50-foot sailboat in Puerto Rico so he could flee the country. At the time of his arrest, though, he claimed all he wanted to do with the boat was to take his 11-year-old son on a trip before going to trial. He’d been taking sailing lessons. But the police got his cell phone.

Here, they say, were his most recent Google searches.

Why do fugitives get caught?

Hitchhiking from Puerto Rico to Venezuela

10 secrets of being a good liar.

Percentage of bail jumpers caught

Seeking citizenship in Venezuela

Can I leave on a cruise with an arrest warrant?

Does Venezuela extradite to the U.S.?

5 countries with no extradition

He’s back in Suffolk County jail without bail.

Note that crime has plummeted since the arrival of the smartphone? You can film a video of a bank robbery, or a police shooting or a carjacking. Everybody is a crime buster. You can also tell a potential mugger you are too busy on the cellphone, then keep walking. He’ll try somebody else.

Back at the party, talking to that man, I now noticed that on my phone’s screen was a message from Siri. PLEASE ASK AGAIN. I’M LISTENING.

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