Friars Hill Traffic Report By Sarah Mansheim Managing Editor • Mountain Messenger

My phone is tracking me.

I started noticing it a couple weeks ago. I’d get into the car and a little message would pop up on my phone screen: “38 minutes to work. Traffic is normal right now.”

Huh? I glared at my phone. “And just how do you know where I’m going?” After work, same thing. I’d get into my car and my screen would light up: “38 minutes to home. Traffic is normal right now.”

How does it know where I live? How does it know where I work? I don’t recall entering any of that information anywhere. It’s creepy. And, I must say, a little inaccurate. I mean, “Traffic is normal right now?” When you travel from Friars Hill to Lewisburg and back every day, what does that even mean?

If the phone is going to track my movements, then can it be more specific? Like, what is “normal?” Does that mean that in the morning traffic is backed up on Rt. 219 north of the interstate and into downtown? That in the evening, traffic is backed up going the other direction? Or, does it mean that traffic is flowing freely on Fairview Road?

And what of Friars Hill Road? What is normal traffic there? Does that mean that in the morning, I’ll have to dodge a few cars that are going in, and in the evening, I’ll have to dodge a few that are going out? Does it account for wildlife?

“Thirty-eight minutes to home. Watch out for deer around the buffalo farm.”

Or, “38 minutes to home. Be careful. Woody Hanna is moving his cows today.”

“Look out at Bunny Bend. Some Ohioan’s gonna be taking his half in the middle, and you don’t want to go in the ditch.”

Maybe “58 minutes to home. The State Road is tearing up the road at Esty and you’re going to have to sit a while. Bring a book.”

It will be interesting to see how the phone behaves this winter. I have high hopes. I want it to tell me things like, “38 minutes to work, but you better get outside early, because there’s ice on your windshield and you’ll need about five minutes to scrape it off.” That would be useful information.

Our smartphones have become inexhaustible data sources for the corporations that sell us our phones and plans, for the advertisers who sell to us on social media, for the click counters who spy on us on Google. Whatever, that’s fine. I mean, it’s creepy, but it’s fine. I get it. I bought the contract and I’m fulfilling my end of the bargain, carrying my phone with me wherever I go, updating my statuses on Facebook, checking my email, shopping, attaching my antenna to wifi and my phone to bluetooth. I know I’m a data mine.

But, it’s still very disconcerting to actually realize your phone has now established your routines and is engaging with you. “Thirty-eight minutes to work.” HOW DO YOU EVEN KNOW THIS? YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE!

Last week was cool. I took a weekday off from work and didn’t leave my house until the afternoon. I drove to Frankford for about an hour and a half, and then I went back home. When I got into my car to head home, my phone screen read, “20 minutes to work. Traffic is normal.”

“Ha! I’m not going to work! And also, I have it on good authority that nothing, and I mean nothing, about Friday afternoon traffic in Lewisburg is normal!”

So, yes, my phone is tracking me—my older daughter actually calls it my Stalker Phone. But, let me tell you, those folks at Apple have a long way to go before the information they offer me has anything of value. The day that my phone screen lights up and the display reads “five minutes to the wine bar. Thirst level is heavy today and all your friends are waiting for you;” then, I’ll know my phone truly knows where, and who, I really am.

 

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