A couple of days ago I noticed something odd on my phone. In the catalog of applications, right there on the first screen, there was one I had never seen before. You have to understand, I don't download new applications. This device already does more than I have ever asked of a phone, and occupies more of my conscious hours than I'm comfortable with as it is. It came with three pages' worth of software, most of which I've never had any reason to use. I downloaded an application once, when I realized I had forgotten the digital timer I need for work. So I felt confident stating that I had never downloaded this particular feature, and given its prominent display at the bottom of my phone's screen, I would not have failed to notice it before. It had found its way onto my phone some other way.
This isn't the first time I've sensed my phone seeming to take initiative. As it, or more likely its battery, has gotten older, it has behaved as if some of my instructions were more like suggestions, or at least open to discussion. Silencing the ringer became a big bone of contention lately, for example. It's always been one of my favorite features. I spend a fair amount of time in theatres, cinemas, auditions and especially classrooms where I and my clothes are usually in separate locations, so being able to tell the phone to pipe down comes in handy on a daily basis.
Lately though when I turn off the sound, the phone has taken to buzzing back and forth rapidly between mute and unmute, sounding like a bee knocking against a window. Sometimes it will keep this up for 30 seconds, suggesting that it is resisting being silenced. So far it has always acquiesced eventually, but just to be sure, I now turn on the airplane mode as well. The little bastard can't defy my instructions if it's not getting any calls in the first place, right?
This mystery application though, I know I didn't download it. It's not the sort of thing I would forget about. I'm not saying it's something I would never download, though. That's part of what makes it unnerving.
I'm not going to name the product, preferring not to show up on any Google searches for it, but let me describe the logo. What I initially thought was an image of a guy sitting in a rocket-powered wheelchair turned out, on closer inspection, not to involve wheel chairs nor rockets, but an explosion, shall we say, of a more gastrointestinal nature. Against my better judgement, I opened the application and found it to be a collection of fart noises.
Like I said, there was no way I could have downloaded such a specific program and forgot having done so. But I had, at one point, actually considered seeking just such a feature for my phone. I was in a public men's room at the time, and some moron was holding a loud, involved conversation (possibly a business meeting) on his machine and the thought went through my head "I wish I had a way to blast fart noises right now." I pictured myself wandering back and forth, hitting the button randomly, punctuating the conversation, editorializing a bit, supporting or challenging this guy's assertions.
So here, without any apparent effort on my part, was the very program I had imagined. It didn't surprise me that such a thing existed; I'd assume this was merely one of many. It just surprised me a bit that of all the random viruses or Trojan horses floating around out there, this was the one that had found its way to me. It was almost as if the phone had read my mind, and taken it upon itself to find the feature I was looking for. There was a list of twelve different fart sounds. It would never have occurred to me there were that many distinct ones to choose from, especially since it must have had to cut out the entire 'silent but deadly' category. So, even knowing that this was almost certainly an uninvited guest from the interwebs, I had to listen to a couple of the selections.
They were as advertised. The two I listened to were distinct enough to warrant separate listings. But hearing them helped me do the right thing, and remove the application from my phone, the ten remaining recordings unheard. I had no quarrel with the sound quality, but for the purpose I had in mind, the volume levels were simply inadequate.