May 16, 2008


There is no doubt about it, celluloid phones, rank high on my list of most annoying and difficult to master technologies! The enthusiasm with which these phones were first greeted, baffled me completely. Everyone except me it seemed, was rushing out to buy one. Even my septuagenarian neighbour, a certain Mrs. V., astonished me one day during a trip to our local market, by suddenly pulling out a cell phone, flipping it dexterously open and bawling into it at the top of her voice! I didn’t even know she owned such a thing and almost jumped out of my skin at the unexpectedness of it all.
The most amazing thing to me was that Mrs. V was holding the phone below chin level and repeatedly shouting her granddaughter’s name at it.
‘Er.. Don’t you have to dial first?’ I ventured.
‘I am doing,’ answered the intrepid Mrs.V.. ‘I’m using name–recognition-dialing.’
‘Oh…of course,’ I murmured faintly, ‘name-recognition-dialing’.
I was always amazed at the richness and variation of the cell phone topics under discussion, although often dismayed too that nothing seemed sacred anymore. Like someone’s loud voice slagging off their neighbour/spouse/best friend/boss etc.. Bah!
'Learn to turn a 'deaf' ear', advised the serene Mrs. V..
But even she avoided the city center during tourist season.
Climbing into an over full tram one hot summers day, I was perplexed by the cacophony of sound - until I slowly realized that practically everyone was talking on a cell phone - and I couldn’t understand a word of it!
Throaty Arabic consonants assailed the air. Turkish words, all seemingly ending in ‘Z’ flew over my head. Melodious Caribbean bounced off the windows. Lilting Italian; rapid Spanish; Australian; American; German; Chinese and all manner of Baltic vocals, swirled frenziedly through the humid, claustrophobic interiour. Everyone seemed to be gesturing; either punching the air or drawing directions in it; or just rocking backwards and forwards with their gaze ‘turned inwards’ as they visualized the person on the other end of their phone.
I felt myself giggle and supressed it with a spluttering cough. Oh Lord, help me! Cough cough. That’s right. Swallow. Take a deep breath...
No offence intended to any of the languages mentioned here but when mixed up all together in a confined space, they're a blast!
And then suddenly there I was - screeching like a banshee. Oh flippin 'eck, hold your breath! Hunch forward! Think of something sad! Nothing was working and heads were turning, as people were distracted from their own noise by mine!
I could imagine that in all their different languages the sentiment would be the same:
‘Look at that silly old bat, laughing at nothing. Shouldn’t be allowed out in public alone. No telling what she’ll do next.’
Tears of mirth and humiliation trickled from my eyes - and as I fumbled desperately in my bag for a tissue, my fingers closed around salvation! Cool and shiny to the touch the flat, rectangular shape slid into my palm and with a last ditch flourish I pulled it from my bag and held it to my ear. I was just in time.
Baleful, suspicious eyes were raking my posture. Check it out: Laughing elderly woman, squashed near the door, gazing downwards, right arm bent, hand held to ear at familiar angle. Hmm… nothing unusual, no threat after all.
Relief flooded through me as their eyes ‘turned inwards’ once more, leaving me alone to chortle insanely - into my wallet!

No comments: