The Plastic Hippo

January 3, 2016

Four funerals and a smart phone

Filed under: Media,Society,Sport — theplastichippo @ 4:00 am
Tags: , ,
Get Smart

Get Smart

It`s not that I`m ungrateful or that I`m unaware of the considerable expense but after years of resisting intrusive technology, Santa delivered unto me a smart phone on Christmas morning.

It would be an appalling abrogation of fatherhood to dismiss this kindness and tell my children that I would have preferred a bottle of Lagavulin or a ticket to the Edgbaston test match. So I thanked them profusely for clubbing together with the help, I suspect, of their mother to allow me to connect to the internet thingy when walking along the street. On reflection, this is a long-held ambition that I have never actually considered. It seems that my existing phone has caused them embarrassment due to its great age and although the screen is badly scratched and it requires a lump of Blu-Tack to connect the charger, it does what I want it to do. It can make and receive telephone calls and on some adventurous occasions, send and receive text messages. Call me old-fashioned, but I have no wish to join the throngs of automatons walking into lamp posts whilst immersed in a digital conversation with people they saw five minutes ago and will see again in half an hour.

My irrational and deep-seated antipathy to mobile telephony goes back many years to an ambitious if inept boss who insisted on issuing me with an early mobile phone. This, he claimed, would “keep me in the loop 24/7” and “maximise client interface with global access potential”. He said a lot of stuff like that so I placed the ground-breaking Motorola in a desk drawer where it stayed unmolested until the battery died. In those days, the pub around the corner had a special tariff nailed up behind the bar for incoming calls asking to speak to regular customers:
“No, he`s not here. Haven`t seen him for a week or so”. £1-00
“He was in for a quick pint a couple of days ago”. 75p
“Hang on, I`ll see if he`s in the snug”. 50p
“Yes, he`s standing at the bar. I`ll get him.” Free of charge

I could not deprive the landlady of the considerable phone income I was putting her way and I had absolutely no intention of being in a 24/7 loop.

Some years later, however, fatherhood dictated a more important need and about a month before the birth of our first child, I bought two his and hers mobile phones which, in terms of prenatal panic, were thankfully never needed. They lasted for years and years until mine finally gave up the ghost under the weight of text messages telling me to buy nappies, bring breakfast cereal; collect from Brownies tonight, deliver to Year Six disco and don`t forget the sleep over on Friday. From nought to 13 in text messages might chart the practicalities of growing lives but they can never measure the joy. When the first phone died, I replaced it with one that has a camera that has never been used and now, with the arrival of this new gift, never will.

During Boxing Day, the thing was left to charge and part of the evening was scheduled for the great activation. I was told by younger experts that something called a Sim card needed to be transferred if I wished to retain my number and the contacts list. A strange hour ensued that saw me trawling through the menus and discovering that the first text message was sent in 2005. It said; “Okay”. To this day, I have no idea what I was agreeing to.

Deleting obsolete contact numbers proved to be both cathartic and rather sad. Gone were former colleagues who I didn`t get on with and who didn`t like me including the ambitious if inept boss who was sacked long before I decided to move on. Gone were the idiot former clients who would spend an hour texting questions when a 30 second landline call would give definitive answers. Gone were surly “team members” who refused to do what they were told and deliberately hid their phones in desk drawers and gone were the people you had to talk to even if you would rather eat your own foot.

Also gone; a reminder of four funerals in 2015. Two elderly semi-distant relatives after serious illness and two people who died tragically young in circumstances far from peaceful. I`m glad to see the back of 2015.

On Boxing Day evening, young experts transferred the Sim card and brought the thing to life faster than Edward Scissorhands doing topiary. I asked in vain for instruction to be greeted with hollow laughter. Codes, passwords, security details were entered and written down for my benefit and within minutes I was able to access my email accounts via the miracle of Wi-Fi by sitting about 12 inches from my desktop computer. Progress, it seems, is looking at a small screen and using a tiny keypad not designed to accommodate fingers resembling a bunch of bananas.

The following day, I ventured into town to replace the cheap whiskey slugged by Christmas Eve visitors with a bottle of Lagavulin and some bin liners. Exhausted by my labours, I resorted to a Public House for refreshment. Noticing a sign proclaiming “Free Wi-Fi”, I tapped in the codes. In that moment, my love for my children almost burst out of my heart. There, right there in my hand was the universe on a tiny screen. Maps, flight radar, news, TheYamYam, Reuters, CNN, Al Jazeera, live football scores and even the bloody score card from the test match in South Africa. Walking home, I collided with a number of lamp posts before the signal faded but noted a passing bus advertising free Wi-Fi. I was tempted to get on to see if it worked. I am completely hooked but hopeful that the novelty will wear off.

In the great purge of the contact list, two no longer active numbers survived. Although it has been a number of years and there is no chance of making any calls, I could not quite bring myself to press delete against the name Dad and the name Mum. Even after all this time, that would make me an orphan.

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