As someone who can remember queuing up outside telephone boxes with pockets full of coins - collected for the purpose for days (when, that is, they weren’t needed to feed into the mouth of the greedy electric meter on the wall of my bedsit) - I find it astonishing that I can now make calls and send text messages from a small device I carry in my pocket. That 19-year-old student who once waited patiently in the cold for more than 20 minutes while a woman in a kiosk (with ten pence pieces stacked on the shelf as if it were a miser’s counting house) turned back and forth, waved her arm around and chatted into the receiver unconcerned about the middle-aged man outside tapping on the glass and pointing at his watch, wouldn’t have believed such a technological advance or change in lifestyle was possible.
Mind you, I have to admit that I was late joining the mobile phone society and when I see most of the population wandering through town hypnotised by their hand-held screens or seated on buses or trains with eyes glazed as if staring deep into a crystal ball as they key in numbers and letters to communicate with someone somewhere, I am still a reluctant convert who struggles with his conscience and finds it difficult to remain true to the faith. I know that if I had any courage I would stand up in the market square one day and shout at the top of my voice: “I no longer believe! Look! I am ridding myself of this evil, cursed tool!” and throw my phone under the wheels of a passing lorry or drop it down the nearest drain, but I know it’s unlikely I ever will. Even though (as a form of inverted snobbery, I expect) I pride myself on possessing the cheapest and most unsophisticated mobile phone available (and one that you would only find in antiques shops) I too, like everybody else, have come to take its presence and the convenient service it provides for granted.
I discovered this the other day when, about half an hour after arriving home from work, I patted the top pocket of my shirt and the mobile phone wasn’t there. I usually carry it in that pocket because, as I tend not to have the sound switched on, I can feel the vibrations when someone calls (although when this happens, and the phone shakes, it can give the worrying impression to anyone standing nearby that I am having a heart attack). I immediately tried to retrace my movements since entering the house but had no luck in locating the phone and was forced to consider the possibility that I had dropped it somewhere outside. I was shocked at how isolated and cut off I suddenly felt (I no longer have a landline) and so the first thing I did next morning (again, surprising myself) was to order a new phone.
That didn’t solve the mystery of the missing one, though, and I remained convinced that it must be in the house. In order to try and find it, my friend and colleague Angeline kindly agreed to call me that evening at seven o’ clock on the dot when, with any luck, the phone would make its presence felt.
At the appointed hour I positioned myself where I thought the phone might be (my settee has an appetite almost as insatiable as that electric meter) but the moment was filled with silence. It was only a few minutes later, as I went into the kitchen, that I heard it: a faint, steady groaning, coming from the depths of a bin bag that was waiting to be taken outside! The phone had obviously slipped out of my pocket as I leaned over to put some rubbish in the black sack.
I am now awaiting the arrival of the “replacement” although I expect I shall keep it as a spare and continue to use the other one. Having said that, the new phone does have a lot going for it: according to the blurb it comes with Android 5.1 Lollipop, Quad core 1.3 GHz and GPS! I have to admit that I’m not all together certain what they are but I’m sure they are great and well worth having.