2014_02 Phone Box

You may think this sounds like the beginning of a Tommy Cooper joke but I went to the doctor the other day and…..nah, there’s no punchline. The end of the sentence should read ‘forgot to take my mobile phone with me.’

Shock and horror of horrors. It’s the way of the world these days that mobile phones have been almost  forced upon us and we all must have one. I discovered I had left mine at home whilst I was sitting in the doctor’s surgery. An immediate feeling of discomfort enveloped me, almost as strong as the discomfort which instigated the appointment with the doc in the first place.

What if someone was trying to contact me? What if I need to call someone? What if I get in an accident? What if Rod Petrie wants to offer me the Hibs job? (Mike you support Hearts…..how ill are you? Ed.)

What if…well, just what if?

Before we had email, texting, Twitter, Facebook, or any other social/communication network on phones we could fit in our pocket and use anywhere we wanted, people either a) made contact if we had answered the phone at home or b) left a message on an answerphone (if there was one) Hell, they even did that almost unheard of action these days – call back. They didn’t try every number, email address, or online account they had for us just to reach us for whatever reason — we simply weren’t available. We either missed their call at home, arrived to find a voicemail waiting for us or answered their call when they tried again.

Now in this super-advanced, high-speed technical age, we are supposed to be contactable 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, whenever someone feels the need to be in touch.

It doesn’t matter if you are at the supermarket, grabbing a bite to eat during your all too short lunch break at work or playing with your children or, in my case, grandchildren at the park – everyone knows you have a mobile phone and thinks you should be available to answer it. But what if you didn’t?

With the mass production of mobile devices, it’s a sad sign of the times that even eating out at a restaurant can see people sitting at a table together quietly, staring at their phones. Have you ever sat with someone while they texted, emailed, or talked on the phone with someone else for just a tad too long? Perhaps it’s my age but this really irritates the hell out of me and makes me feel even less important than I normally feel.

The constant need for constant updates about everything under the sun (and it’s usually of no importance at all) has created a nation of mute zombies, blindly walking with their head down engrossed in the latest update about…whatever. We used to be able to deal with not seeing the latest news until we got around to it; why the need now?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a tech-luddite. I have a Blackberry, laptop and tablet. And I do browse on the internet on my mobile while the bus driver has to negotiate his way through selfish and occasionally stupid motorists on Edinburgh’s streets as well as dealing with the ned culture that seems an ever-increasing presence on our public transport (but that’s for another rant).

I understand it’s now become difficult to leave the house without the modern-day adult version of a security blanket. As the aforementioned trip to the doctor proved, I found it difficult too. However, this experience made me think about getting some ‘me’ time back – and going out more often without the demanding little piece of instant technology that common consensus says you can’t do without.  When I do go ‘mobile free’ I have been rather startled at just how often I reach for my phone in my pocket only to find it’s not there — and I am forced to do something else. You may feel the same. What to do?

Try looking around. Try talking to a human being. Try paying attention. When you don’t feel chased down by someone or aren’t busy staring at that little 4.5 inch screen full of Facebook and Twitter updates, it’s amazing what you can experience.

Try it out a few days a week or a few times a month. Leave your phone at home once in a while. It could change your life.

Got to go now. My phone has just bleeped to indicate there’s a text message for me. And I simply must read it immediately…


  1. Mike, I know you said in the piece that you were not a Luddite but you are verging exactly that I’m afraid. You sound like a guy who could have said “forks are the end of the world as everyone is eating too fast. We should go back to using chopsticks to slow our lives down”.
    I’m afraid human experience is shaped all throughout history by the technological leaps that we make. From the wheel, the fork (OK, joking on this one), the printing press, the transistor; human lives have changed immeasurably and generally for the better with each leap.
    What you are experiencing is a kind of natural aversion to new things. Douglas Adams hypothesised that anything invented before you were born is normal; anything invented up to when you were 35 is exciting; anything invented after you were 35 is against the natural order of things. He also said that it applies to a lot of other things too, like movies, rock music and word processors.

  2. Thanks for reading my post and for taking the time to comment, Mark. I take your point that technology shouldn’t be something to be feared. However, I still feel our lives are dominated by the phone – landlines as well. Is there a law which says we have to answer our phone or answer text messages immediately? I just feel we have become a slave to the phone.

    As for using chopsticks to slow our lives down – what a brilliant idea!

    Haste ye back to the Edinburgh Reporter.

  3. Mike, you are right about the mobile phone, how often do you seen entire families out for a meal with them all heads into their screen checking out Faceache or similar social media, people walking down the street oblivious to the physical world (been a few nast accidents because of this too) . Although of course just because your phone rings , bleeps or whatver does not mean you need to answer / respond to it though, we still have freedom of thought (well some of us anyway) …….

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