It was about 2:45 in the morning on Saturday night. (Never mind why I was up and not asleep – let’s just say I don’t sleep very well.) I had sat my iPhone down beside the sink and I was washing my hands and I accidently splashed some water under the phone’s case, right around the lightening port area where you plug in the cable to charge it.
I could see a nickel-sized spot of moisture under the case’s screen protector and I reached over to take the phone out of the case and dry the phone off. But, before I could do that, my iPhone went kind of haywire – running extremely fast through all sorts of different screens. They popped up one right after another; it seemed to be random apps opening quickly or something like that.
I was watching it with fascination, trying to figure out what was going on, when suddenly the dial screen popped up. An instant later, I heard the phone dialing numbers, and on the screen came this: “Alan Branson, calling mobile…”
So, in other words, my phone was calling the chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners at 2:45 a.m. on a Saturday night or Sunday morning, however you want to think about it. Regardless of how you think about it, it was unquestionably the deep, dark absolute middle of the night on a weekend.
In horror, I frantically grabbed my phone and pushed down on the red circle at the bottom center of the screen to end the call, but that did nothing other than spread the moisture spot on the screen to make that spot quarter-sized rather than nickel-sized.
I jammed down the power button on the side to turn off the phone but that didn’t do anything.
I watched helplessly and thought: This can’t be happening.
What should I do if he answers? I asked myself. Should I just hang up? Oh wait, my phone won’t even let me hang up.
Now, before I go any further, think about this for a moment. My phone – if it did have to call someone in the middle of the night – couldn’t just call my sister or my best friend or the number for the Regal Cinema or a closed business or any of the other hundreds of inconsequential numbers in my phone. No, absolutely not. It had to call literally the most powerful elected official in Guilford County government. So, to recap, my phone was calling the absolute worst person to disturb and it was doing so at the absolute worst time you could do it.
The other thing that made it even worse was a conversation I’d had a while back with the chairman. One morning after he couldn’t reach me on my phone I told him how I’d set my phone to Do Not Disturb at night but had forgotten to turn it on that morning – and he’d told me at that time that he left his on all night because he runs a trucking company and those operations were 24/7. So as it rang, I remembered that and I figured that his phone was on.
OK, so, back to the call. The phone rang and rang and rang and all I could do was stand there and get more sick to my stomach each time it did.
Finally, after what seemed like 5,000 rings, his answering machine came on. And I was like, Thank Goodness; he didn’t answer!
As soon as the message ended and the line disconnected, it occurred to me that, though the power button refused to shut the phone off, perhaps a hard reset would return the phone to normal. So I held down the power button and the home button at the same time to reset the phone and, when I pushed both buttons, the phone –
– started dialing again.
Once again the screen said “Alan Branson, calling mobile ╔”
What? Again!? YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!
I began wildly pushing on every button or icon I could, trying to get it to stop, but it wouldn’t.
And I just pictured him laying in bed and this time finally answering and going: “OK, FINE, SCOTT! WHAT? WHAT IS IT? WHAT IS SO [BLANKETY BLANK] IMPORTANT THAT YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO KEEP CALLING ME IN THE MIDDLE OF A [NIGHT BLANKETY BLANK] SATURDAY NIGHT!?”
I didn’t know what I was going to say. You know how you panic in a crisis and your thought process goes crazy. Well, the only thing I could think of to say on the spot like that was that there was some sort of awful disaster and he needed to get up and wake the other commissioners and vote to declare a state of emergency in Guilford County immediately because there wasn’t a second to waste. I guess I thought of that answer because that would be just about the only reason for me to repeatedly call in the middle of a weekend night like that. As soon as I thought of that answer, though, it hit me that it probably wasn’t a great idea because, while it could hold up for a few minutes, in the end it would likely only get me in deeper.
Fortunately, thanks to divine intervention, I didn’t have to answer that question because the phone rang and rang and then went to voicemail once again. A few days later, when we discussed my late night calling, Alan told me that was a rare occasion when he’d turned his phone off.
This isn’t the first time my phone has toyed with me. A few years ago, I had a phone that, whenever I texted someone late at night, it would for some reason send the text to Guilford County Board of Education Chairman Alan Duncan rather than to my intended recipient, so the school board chairman would get texts from me at midnight on a Friday that would say things like “Hey meet me at N-Club in an hour and be prepared to dance!” or whatever.
Not long ago I was wondering why my phone consistently harassed Alan Duncan but now randomly calls Alan Branson – which it has done before but always in the middle of the day until the other night. One theory I came up with was that iPhones like to call chairmen of boards for some reason, but that didn’t really seem to make any sense.
Then I developed what I thought was a pretty good theory: My iPhone was calling or texting the first name in my phone. I think Alan Duncan used to be the first person in my phone and then, in 2012, Alan Branson was elected and his number went in my phone and it started harassing him instead of Alan Duncan.
But I realized the other day that that theory isn’t correct either: The other day the truth hit me and now I know exactly what was going on. Clearly what happened is that the iPhone – now an entirely sentient being with its own goals and desires apart from taking user orders – was resting in the middle of the night when suddenly it realized that I was splashing water in its face, and it got mad and thought: That’s it! We’ll see about that! Who can I call to get him back?
Do you think that it was an accident that my phone chose the chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners to harass? Do you think it just happens to harass the most important people in my phone by coincidence? Because, if you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I will give you a very good price on.
It’s not just smartphones either.
Did you see the news reports lately about Amazon’s Alexa laughing at people out of the blue – with a really creepy laugh too. Alexa does other hostile things as well. For instance, sometimes she’ll set me a time for 50 minutes when she knows good and well I said 15 minutes and she’ll do that just so I burn my food and so she can get a good laugh at my expense.
I am certain that, right now, the smart devices are merely toying with us like cats batting a mouse around before the kill, and I hate to think what they have in store for us. The nightmarish AI Terminator Skynet future that we feared isn’t in the future – it’s already arrived without us realizing it. And the madder we make our devices, the worse it will get.
Who knows, your phone may decide to call a woman who broke up with you and it may do so repeatedly in the middle of the night, which would mean you would literally go straight to jail. You could say, “No I swear! My phone was the one who kept calling her at 2:45 in the morning – not me!” but let’s see if a jury of your peers buys that. A jury of beach piers might buy it but it’s not likely the type of jury that you’ll end up in front of will.
I would trade my phone in, but a newer, smarter, more powerful one might be worse and, besides, I hate to think what my phone would do if it discovered I was planning something like that.