Monday, 14 July 2008

Do I really need my mobile to go to the shop?

Heading out of the door to go to the shop, I stop in my tracks.
Forgot my phone.
Do I really need my phone to go to the bloody shop?
Motionless, with one leg out of the front door and one leg in the house, I lose a minute or two debating the issue.
All I want to do is nip down to the Maxol in Lower Salthill and pick up the newspapers. What’s likely to happen on this trip that might require a mobile phone? It’s 9 o’clock on a Sunday morning, so nothing at all.
Mind you, of course, the car might break down, and then I’d be stuck on the roadside wishing to hell and back that I’d bought my phone. Or some as yet unknown incompetent eedjit might decide to drive straight out of Monksfield and slam bang into the side of Shaaanny Car. You just never know what might happen, so I might as well be prepared. Go get my phone, and stop with all this procrastinating.
Clearly unconvinced by this line of argument, my legs still remain rigid, frozen in indecision.
Yes, alright, okay, I am fully aware that anything might and probably will happen, but that was always and is always and will be forever the case. Does that mean, ergo, that I really need my mobile phone by my side at all times, ad infinitum?
Closing the door behind me I climb into the car, phoneless and vexed. Here I am, worrying whether I need my mobile to go down to the shops for fear of a car crash, or for a walk on the Prom, for fear of cardiac arrest or spontaneous human combustion, Alien invasion or gord knows what.
Alongside their obvious benefits, mobile phones bring a huge chunk of fear into our lives; fears that have always existed in the background, now suddenly becoming immediate and demanding, sitting on our shoulders as invisibly, silently and powerfully as the radiation from the mobile in my pocket is frying my goolies; as the microwaves from our mobiles parental phone masts which have wiped out the sparrows of London, and are causing mayhem in migratory bird patterns; and while we’re spreading conspiracy theory-level fear about with mobile abandon - what about the bees? Maybe our mobiles and their microwaves are the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, the enigmatic disaster that has trashed the bee population of North America and threatens to change the face of the natural world.
Blimey. See how scary it gets inside your colyoomist’s head, and all this just because I wondered whether I should take my mobile down to the shops.
I have my phone with me all the time, but I wish I didn’t. With or without mobile phones, I would be concerned about her Snappership late at night, and the fact that I can ascertain her safety is a great boon, but beyond that, I don’t really buy into a lot of the other supposed so-called benefits of total communication.
Galway City, of all places, was and is always driven by the bumping into of other people, the chance encounters and grabbed cuppas that lead to sessions. This city doesn’t need mobile phones, and neither does the rural West of Ireland, where you go round to see people, and if they are in then grand, put the kettle on, and if not, well grand, we’ll try another day.
Mind you, if I had children I’d be singing a different tune.
And then again, maybe (especially in England) the veil of security afforded by the mobile phone, the idea that as long as you can talk to your kids all will be fine, has allowed the bond between parents and their children to stretch and fray further than ever before.
If I hadn’t had my mobile on holiday with me in years gone by, I would not have found out whilst in Spain that my four year-old friend had died, and I would not have known last March that my Dad was in Intensive Care.
But equally, the panic, worry, sadness and fear that ensued having received those particular pieces of news served absolutely no purpose. Dad survived long after that scare, and as far as my lovely little friend was concerned, the rushing was over: amen.
Managing to find the comical within the intrinsically tragic, the wonderful Dom Joly forever destroyed those who use their mobiles at ill-judged times and in inappropriate places with his huge mock phone and his raucous yell:
“Hello! I’m on the beach/bus/toilet/.”
But the dangers of our widespread use of mobiles goes beyond the natural world, the lives of the birds and bees and our own gonads. We all passively and stoically accept that while we have our phones switched on, anyone - all governments, some corporate forces and any individual with the requisite technology - can find out what we are doing and where.
How many times will we hear the reactionary cry: ‘If you’ve done nothing wrong then you have nothing to fear’? Maybe they’ll only stop when we’ve completely lost our privacy and liberty.
All this in mobile phones? Who knew?
Meanwhile, I’m finally considering giving up on predictive texting. I came to mobiles late, and was instructed by all those whom I love and trust that predictive is the only way to go, but I am so very very tired of finishing writing a long text message, only to find that, instead of arranging a drive to the country, followed by a picnic and a few pints in the pub, I’ve actually invited myself to cycle over and screw my friends goat, set fire to her pubic hair and sell her mother to a nun at the whorehouse.
And this is meant to be helpful? Consider slowly and carefully just how many people you might deeply upset by failing to spot every vital predictive text anomaly:
‘I love you. We have Aids’ (ages).
Somehow, the ‘Happy/Gassy’ mix-up feels a lot less frightening, but is still very capable of being wonderfully misunderstood.
Meanwhile, somewhere on the internet:
“My friend Steve texted me when we were planning a trip to Alton Towers:
“I can't wait to have a go on all the sheep!” (rides)

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