Three weeks before my birthday, Norbert the Nokia kindly decided that I no longer needed the bottom row of keys, lined up like baby teeth at the bottom of my handset. From that moment onwards, I was condemned to only phoning the numbers that were already stashed away in Norbert’s memory, and I crossed my fingers that he would not suffer from amnesia as well as paralysed digits.
But that’s not all. I also had to get my head around a texting world that was devoid of the letters W, X, C, V, B, M, and N. Texting became as easy as simultaneously whistling and cleaning your false teeth – it was like playing Scrabble with half the letters missing from the box. By the time I had found a synonym that did not need any of the missing letters, the person I was supposed to pick up at the bus stop had given up and walked home.
The major disadvantage of being deprived of these letters was that I was suddenly incapable of refusing anything to my children at distance, as I had no way to type the word “no” in a text message, whatever language I used. The absence of an immediate refusal was therefore interpreted as a tacit consent.
I can hear you all from here. “Why didn’t you just phone them?” I hear you ask. Simple. Using a phone to talk with parents went out with the arc (even if this was the only viable argument they had for buying the thing). When we parents call our offspring, we are generally greeted by the answering machine – taking a call from your mother on the school bus is as high on the humiliation scale as showing a pimple on your backside to your family GP.
A teenager’s mobile phone could be defined as an alarm clock that allows its owner to play games, communicate with friends (by text message only), listen to music and avoid being spoken to by the kid in your class who wants to go out with you when waiting alone at the bus stop. It is also an ideal means to reverse those parent – offspring roles and keep constant track of your genitors – a bit like Argos transmitters on migratory birds. When I leave the house at the weekend, I have approximately ten minutes of freedom before the tracking squad kicks in with regular calls demanding where I am and what time I will be back. This makes me feel like a fifteen-year-old girl who’s been caught sneaking out the back door in her sister’s high heels and sequined boob tube when I’m just on a mission to fill the fridge for the second time in three days.
Anyway, I digress. When PF, Bigfoot, Little My and Rugby Boy took me off to choose my new phone for my birthday, I was a happy cookie. My offspring pointed excitedly at ultra thin phones – the technological equivalent of Paris Hilton after a run-in with a steam roller. The things just oozed sexiness, and when I saw the price label I realised why – they’d had enough microchip surgery to keep them looking young until the next model elbowed them off the telecommunications catwalk into early retirement six months later.
A salesman cruised around the corner and mooched over to us. Flashing a pearly white smile, he smoothly ran off the characteristics of the über-sexy model in his hand. When he stopped for breath, I asked, “So, does it phone?” He drew himself up to his full height – somewhere around my belly button. “Yes, madame. You can also takes pictures and videos, surf the web, get the weather all over the world, the news…” When he had finished, I asked: “Does it do the washing-up and bring me breakfast in bed too?”
He blinked. I explained that although it may appear strange, I don’t have an internet package for my phone – I actually enjoy the freedom of not being followed by social media and emails when I’m out. I just needed a phone that phones. I pointed behind him to a bright red candy-bar that could survive being dropped in the Atlantic, thrown off a cliff and run over by a tank. This little beauty had probably been designed by Playschool, and would survive well after the scorpions had kicked the bucket in the Apocalypse. I quickly found myself imagining the scene – I would tuck it under my lycra knicker elastic and be the new Lara Croft, albeit with less generous boobs and extra padding on my bottom half, bounding around the scorched remains of the earth. Yeah. The only girl with a phone that would work to call the President when the other survivor, Bruce Willis, got the network up and running…
Little My shook her head and dragged me out of my dream to show me another phone. Her siblings agreed: this was the real McCoy. And ever since, I have been the adoptive mother of Gizmo. Gizmo is a smart phone who is too big to fit in my jeans pocket but small enough to disappear in my handbag. He’s not just a smart phone, he’s a smarty-pants phone. His insatiable need for attention has driven me to lobotomise him by depriving him of his lifeline to the internet router after more disturbances than I care to mention. A night with a teething child is probably more restful than a night with a phone that pops its cheek at you through the dark every time someone on the other side of the world posts a picture of their lunch on Facebook.
Gizmo is obviously a man – he is very touchy-feely, and constantly requests stroking and TLC. Like a Gremlin, Gizmo must be kept away from water at all costs. Whereas I could just wipe my hands on my jeans and press the button to take a call with Norbert when I was peeling the spuds, Gizmo has to wait until I’ve washed and dried my hands before I can tend to his needs. When he rings in my pocket and it’s raining, I find myself reassuring him that I will release him from the dark just as soon as I find a dry place to stand. The idea of him getting covered in warts, and evil baby smart phones popping up all over the place scares the hell out of me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go… Gizmo’s ringing.