Dan Rattiner's Stories

Cellphone Weirdness: Messages, Notifications and Whooping Sounds

Our mobile phones deliver all sorts of strange alerts.

Do you get weird notifications on your cellphone? I do. Last week, I got a message reading, “RAIN ALERT. A brief rain shower will begin around 1:31 a.m. The rain will be light…” It was a sunny day. Not a cloud in the sky. I clicked to read the rest of the notification. “In Charleston, South Carolina,” it said.

Sometimes these weather notifications refer to where I am—Southampton, Sag Harbor or Amagansett. I like those. But sometimes, they don’t. For a while I thought these alerts had been set up because of places I’ve been. Charleston. Nashville. Such notifications would bring back warm memories of those places. But then I got an alert that said “a vicious thunderstorm will begin at 4:16 p.m…”

Yes? Where? I clicked. “…in West Liberty.” Where the hell is West Liberty? I did a search. It’s in Indiana. I’ve never been to Indiana. I get two or three of these a day, all either for where I am, where I was or for places I’ve never been. It’s nice. The weather service is showing off.

Then there is the notification that comes up at least once a day, referring to Tiger Muay Thai. It might read “BBQ Sakadpet vs Wanpadet.” I think this is either an invitation to a backyard cookout, a relaxation technique or some ancient Thai self-defense maneuver. It comes from YouTube, and I could shut off notifications from YouTube, but then I’d be shutting off some good stuff.

So Tiger Muay Thai is a price I pay.

Then this happened. I was in Grand Central Station. Phone was in the off position. I was near the information booth. And suddenly, my phone went off, very loud. Great whooping sounds. “Emergency,” the notification on my screen read. “Evacuate immediately.” People stared at me. Nobody else was whooping. Then it stopped. I clicked to get the rest of the message. The emergency was in Grand Forks, North Dakota, because flash floods were coming at 9:17 p.m.

Another weird thing happened last Monday night. The phone had asked me to agree to do an update of the platform iOS. All sorts of new goodies would be awaiting me on the phone. I was getting into bed. Okay. But 20 minutes later, I was awakened by a loud beep. The update had finished and suddenly, bang, up came 22 new email messages. And this is the interesting part. Every one was a link to one of three newspaper articles I’d read, which on November 4, 2016, I had sent to others because I thought they might like reading them. They’d been wandering around in space for three years, undelivered, and now had stopped their wandering to return to sender.

For old time’s sake, I opened one of the links. It led to an article in The New York Times, written by a reporter interviewing a man now in jail who admitted he had been the person who fired shots into the ceiling of a pizzeria that he thought Hillary Clinton was connected up to, where he believed a child sex ring operation was taking place.

“I guess I went about it wrong,” the man said from jail. “I just was trying to do the right thing about the stuff that was going on there.”

Of course, we have come a long way from Hillary and her Pizza Parlor back in 2016. Yes? No?

Another thing bothering me is what happens when I want to Google something. For example, in a conversation with a fellow sports fan, I wanted to know exactly the year that Carl Yastrzemski, the son of a Bridgehampton potato farmer, won baseball’s Triple Crown as the left fielder for the Boston Red Sox. Most home runs, most runs batted in, highest batting average.

In the old days, a Google search was just a long box on a white screen where you could type in what you wanted to search for. The word “Google” appeared above the box and was written in some amusing way. Type into the search and an array of possibilities appeared.

Nowadays they still have that, but beneath it is this whole long group of other things I might be interested in. And I am.

So, before embarking on my Yastrzemski search, I scrolled down to learn that the planet Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system by far, does not exactly circle the sun. It is the only planet that has a gravitational pull strong enough to get this to happen. The sun budges a tiny bit in the direction of Jupiter as that big planet moves around it. As a result, Jupiter actually does not circle the center of the sun, but a place on the sun a few hundred yards off the center toward wherever Jupiter is. Of course, even with Jupiter’s mighty size, its gravity is only 1/10,000th the strength of the sun’s gravity. So the movement is only a little bit. Who knew?

Further down, I learned that the world of animals is divided into two groups. One group has a mating season. But in the other seasons, there’s no sex. This group is called the seasonal breeders. The other group are the breeders who mate whenever they want to. Humans fall into this group. Nobody knows why exactly we breed continuously, but theories abound. Humans do enjoy a nice social life with one another, which certain other animals, the seasonal breeders, don’t, and in the course of things with the continuous breeders, sex happens whenever.

I did wonder if this is true in the Hamptons. One might think that more mating goes on in the summertime, when the beach and the sea are so beautiful, the species wear skimpier clothing and the flowers are in bloom. I know how I could prove this true or false. I could get statistics from Southampton Hospital listing the number of babies born there by month every year. You’d have to factor in the fact that more people are out here in the summertime than in the wintertime. But it could be done.

Now what was I going to Google about? Something about football? No?

Oh, yes, it was the Monogram Shop on Newtown Lane in East Hampton. Every presidential election season, the owner of this shop tapes a new piece of paper in her show window so pedestrians coming by can see how many customers had ordered monograms on coffee cups to indicate support for a particular presidential candidate. She does this every presidential election. Four years ago, the numbers at the end showed a virtual tie between Trump and Hillary.

What about now? I Googled it and yes, it is online. As of this writing, Pete Buttigieg has 888 monograms, Donald Trump has 767, Kamala Harris 339, Joe Biden 313, Elizabeth Warren 302, Bernie Sanders 98 and they all follow the leader, which is Any Functioning Adult at 977.

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