“I think you need an app,” the person told me.
“A nap? Do I look sleepy?” I replied.
“No, I mean an app on your phone. A navigation app — if you’re going to find the place in time.”
The oddest thing about this advice was its source — not my husband or one of my kids, but a librarian. Specifically, one of the reference librarians at my wonderful Port Washington Public Library.
I had been desperate to find a certain test-prep book to cram for an impending civil service exam. But the library was all out of copies — including the copies that were never supposed to leave the library.
I was stumped, but my librarian was made of sterner stuff. She checked something, made a phone call and told me there might be one way I could still get my hands on that book in time to use it over the weekend.
“You might be able to purchase a copy from the publisher, because they’re located here on the Island. But only if you can get there in the next 45 minutes before they close.”
I started to panic.
“Here’s what you do,” said the librarian. “Download this app. Like this. I’ve used it, and the key is — no matter how crazy a thing it tells you to do, just do it. It’s never failed me. If it tells you to turn right into a brick wall, then go ahead and turn into that brick wall. Somehow it will work out, but you have to trust it.”
It sounded impossible, but I was out of options.
“It says you have just enough time, so off you go! Carefully, of course.”
It felt like I was holding an un-exploded bomb, blinking in the palm of my hand as I walked out of the library and got into my car.
My first test of faith came seconds later at the exit onto Main Street. “Turn right,” the app told me. But I knew that was wrong. Left was the way to the Long Island Expressway.
Then I heard my librarian’s voice: “If it tells you to turn right into a brick wall, do it.”
With great trepidation, I turned right. It took me the long way around the block — a “block” that constituted half the town — before finally putting me on the road to the Expressway.
Only then did I notice that I had been routed around some police cars and actual gridlock, on our little Main Street, just beyond my view from the library. If I had taken that “sure thing” left turn, I would still be stuck in that gridlock. Darned if the librarian — and the app — hadn’t been right.
The app spoke up. “There is a traffic camera ahead.”
Really? I looked for it before deciding that I couldn’t pay attention to that right now.
A few minutes later I was on the LIE. The app spoke again.
“There is a car on the shoulder up ahead.” What is it talking about? There is nothing on the shoulder…oh, wait, I see something now. Indeed, there it is with its hood up and its blinkers on. How did they know?
“There is construction work 500 feet ahead.” No, there isn’t…oh, yes, I guess there is. This app was uncannily accurate.
“There is a downed tree on the side of the road ahead.” What? A traffic app is tracking trees now? Don’t they usually stay put? Oh, wow, a huge tree had blown down in a storm, blocking one lane of traffic. Luckily, I had changed lanes in time to go around.
I was getting punchy. I wondered if the app might track deer near the highway as well. “There is a stag on the side of the road 500 feet ahead. He is deciding whether or not to jump in front of your car. He will block the left-hand lane.”
What DIDN’T this app warn you about? “There will be a fork in the road for you one week ahead. Should you take this test and become a civil servant? Maybe not, considering you aren’t going to score very well.”
It would have been so handy years ago.
“Ditch this high-school boyfriend, he just wants to get your clothes off.”
“Your roommate is going to bail on your plans for Mardi Gras in New Orleans; go anyway.”
“They’re going to laugh you out of that interview with IBM, save your breath.”
I finally got to the publishing house with seconds to spare, purchased the practice book and made it home dodging every traffic-cam and camouflaged cop-car in Nassau County.
Never mind how I did on the test; learning about this app changed my life. But I think it confines its advice to traffic. Too bad!