Britain, and I dare say the rest of the world, has become a nation of mobile phone fiddlers—official! And if the vast numbers of polycarbonate rectangles that appear every time someone gets on a bus are any guide, I'd say the habit has spread at an alarming rate. Not quite pandemic, but not far from it. Don't misunderstand me, I'm probably as guilty as anyone. And I'm definitely not hurling slings and arrows at mobile phones.
They are, afterall, a useful electronic tagging device for your kids—though they probably won’t see it that way, and a vital link between you and your nearest and dearest on the journey home from work, even though you’re still in the pub. Agreed, they can appear strange. Is it me or do mobiles feel heavier after a battery re-charge? Okay, must be me then. And they can be funny too—in a peculiar way.
Cast your mind back to around 2003. The dawning of the infamous "Crazy Frog" ringtone. A journey on public transport became more interesting—or infuriating—as we all waited for the hapless individual to "answer his bloody phone" so we could giggle and smirk (or glare) en masse.
"Crazy Frog" seemed not a bad idea at the time, even a somewhat "out there" fashion statement. But fashion statements change. And, fortunately, so do ringtones. Nowadays, it seems the choice is infinite. Anything from the "Hallelula Chorus" to Beyoncé and all stops in between. So, theoretically, there should be something to please everyone.
But, tastes are fickle and they inevitably change. And so, it seems, do mobile phones.
Back when they first saw the light of day, these new fangled gizmos were roughly the size of a house brick, weighed about the same and retailed for a few thousand quid. The battery was lugged around in a shipping crate and lasted for around thirty minutes, if you were lucky. Those who used them thought they looked the bees knees, even though you could do precious little with them, apart from—strike up the band—phone people.
Strange thing. But I thought that was their primary function. It seems, however, that technology's founding fathers had bigger ideas. Gradually, they shrank them bit by bit, until you could just about cram them safely in your pocket. As long as you avoided stubbing your nail on the antenna sticking out the top, you were fine. And don’t even go there when it comes to the flip-phone.
Then, they stretched the boundaries of science, by introducing games and a thing called internet access. Oh ye Gods, more time to waste, more excuses to miss my stop and try and outsmart the Warlords of Zyborg in the process. Ah well, that's progress for you.
And progress they have. Like them or loathe them, these days it's quite eye watering what can be shoe-horned into 110 grams worth of mobile phone. Granted touch-screens took some getting used to if you were reared on push buttons.
Nonetheless, it gets to the point where you wonder what can't be included and we get curious. Curious about what else this little package can do. So much so, that we lose all sense of what's around us. Literally.
So when you accidentally drown your lifeline to the outside world in the bath, you become lost. Your whole existence (or that part of it encased in your phone) falls apart. You're marooned, a castaway. You've nothing to fiddle with—legally—on your way home. Worse still, you can't phone anyone.
There is, thankfully, a solution which has nothing to do with immersing your half-drowned phone in a bag of rice. Talk to someone! Face to face. Person to person. Doesn't take much effort and it's a lot more personal—and enjoyable—than yelling down a piece of polycarbonate or, dare I say it, engaging in social media. Ah, social media. That’s another story altogether.