March 9th, 2010


Column 4 - Outward mobility

I'm not unique, I'm not special, I'm probably not even that different. Yes, I seem to think about things in ways that other people don't profess to but, actually, do I? I don't know because the only head I've ever done any thinking in is mine. I have a view of the world that isn't necessarily shared by that many people, but I've always seen that as healthy. For the most part, as much as possible, I go my own way, plough my own furrow, insert your own metaphor here, and I'm very happy to do so. For, do they not say that variety is the spice of life? Indeed, do they not say that it would be a very dull world if we were all the same?

We all have pet hates, things that we personally take against when others may embrace and adore them. I seem to have quite a lot. And, as I slide inexorably into the realms of oldgitdom, that list of pet hates seems to be growing. Who can't have failed to notice my dislike of authority and unearned privilege? Who has not seen just how much I dislike the trend towards globalisation and a horribly homogenised world? Why am I asking so many rhetorical questions?

So, here we get to the nub of the thing; here I come railing against yet another something that no-one else can possibly object to. Here I am raising questions and throwing in reasons for my own way of thinking. Here I am, look at me waving, standing out in the crowd and calling foul while everyone else happily, meekly accepts the object of my displeasure. When is he going to get to the point? When is he going to stop asking so many bloody rhetorical questions?

I don't have a mobile phone. I don't need a mobile phone. I don't want a mobile phone. It's not that I have anything in principle against mobile phones, it's just that I don't have a use for one. I realise that there are people for whom a mobile is a lifeline, a connection with the outside world that is both essential and convenient. I insisted my mother got one for when she is out and about in the evenings, just in case. Though now, several years later, she is still unable to work out how to use it.

I genuinely can't think of any way in which it would enhance my life. I don't think my life is any less worthy or unfulfilled because of the absence of a mobile. I have gone blissfully through this meagre existence without one and I don't intend to start now.

There is a huge irritation factor that puts me off the concept, and that is not down to the phones themselves exactly, but rather some of the people who have and use them and the way they use them. To start with, there's the extremely annoying noises they make and the fact that they get louder if they're not attended to right away. There is the insistent, painful way they demand to be dealt with - 'Answer me, answer me now, come on, answer meeee right now, now!' they seem to say. I might be doing something important; I don't want something that insists on being the focus of my attention when that attention may already be focussed on a real life situation. I know you can turn them off, so why don't people turn them off?

Actually, I don't want people to be able to contact me in any way when I don't want to be contacted, and that is just about all the time. And nothing in the world would get me interested in being txtd - whatever that actually means. The debasement of my language is not something I am ever going to be a willing party to.

I work in an open-plan office. There are rules about working in this open-plan office, designed to make it a more pleasant experience. One of those rules is, 'No mobile phones.' No-one, except me of course, sticks to that rule any more, and I’m the one who doesn’t like rules. The things are going off left, right and bloody centre, all day long. I leave the office and go for a walk, the pavements are clogged with people walking more slowly than normal, apparently talking to themselves or looking at their hands while they blindly inconvenience people coming in the other direction.

I have been involved in two potentially serious road accidents in the past eight years. Both times I was hit from behind by someone on a mobile phone who was distracted enough to be not looking where they were going. Both times the vehicle I was driving was written off, and all because some ignorant idiot wasn't concentrating and hadn’t noticed that I was stationary waiting to turn off or at the back of a queue of cars.

At lunchtime today I went to get my sandwiches, as I do every working day. In front of me in the queue was a woman on a mobile phone. When it was her turn to be served she carried on her conversation and just put the things she wanted to buy on the counter along with her money. She didn't once utter a word to the person who served her, instead she carried on her remote conversation. When she had been served she just picked up her things and her change and walked off. No 'Thank you', nothing. I couldn't believe how ignorant and disrespectful that was. I would like to think that, if I were the person working at the till, I would have made her go to the back of the queue until she found some manners.

I could go on, but I’ve exceeded my word count and I'm sure you get the gist - I won't be getting a mobile phone. I will remain in an ever-diminishing minority, pleased to be remote from a culture of immediacy and impatience. If I believed in gods I would see the mobile as the personification of absolute hell.