I know that what I’m about to confess may shock a lot of you. I know because I’ve seen the look of horror on people’s faces for quite some time now, so here goes – I don’t use a mobile phone. The retorts of disbelief when I utter those magic words range from, you’re joking and I don’t believe you, to the more often accusatory, what’s wrong with you? as if I’m some sort of aberration. That’s okay – each to their own and all that, but sometimes I’m on the receiving end of a serious amount of stick and that can hurt.
The truth is, I just don’t get it. That constant need to be in touch. That desire to share your life with the world and his wife when you’re in the middle of a supermarket. The temptation to interrupt a perfectly nice conversation with someone when your pocket starts to vibrate. I’ve tried really hard to want to want it, to be even tempted to want it, but no, it’s not happening and I don’t think it’s likely to either, as I’ve been tried and tested.
Not so long ago my husband and I were taking flights from the UAE to Bahrain. It was planned with military precision because we were flying out of different airports and his flight was due to land an hour before mine, therefore enabling him to greet me at the other end. Yes, you’ve guessed it – the weather had other ideas and I eventually found myself in Bahrain airport waiting by ‘Arrivals’ for over five hours. I had no phone of course but I had a book and reasoned that my other half would have to appear through the doors at some stage, which of course, he did. Technically inept I may be but patience is something I’ve obviously got in spades (a quality you obviously seem to need if you’re found wanting and phoneless).
I enquired of my daughter whether she could think of something that I’m technically terrible at. LOL she replied – none of the family would ever let you within a mile of our smartphones as you’re a liability with anything ‘touch screen’ (this is actually true as I find that just holding those phones without creating major chaos is incredibly challenging). When I take photos, it’s with my little handbag camera (button easily accessed at the top) and when I listen to music I put on a CD or stick an LP on the turntable and immerse myself in Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’, Circa 1971, crackles and all. And while I’m at it – what happened to the traditional dashboard clock in the car where it used to take a millisecond to turn the dial an hour forward or backward, depending on the time of year? Now you have to endure the gubbins of a complicated computerised system or else wait six months in between, with the clock showing the wrong time – I did say that I had a lot of patience.
When I was young, and in the absence of any form of available computer technology, my siblings and I were expected to invent our own forms of entertainment. My long-suffering sister and I often participated in a game we called Splits where you tried, by taking aim with a kitchen knife, to get each other to separate our feet until we fell over. The only risk was slicing some toes off but that was all part of the fun and my sister and I are still on speaking terms. No technology needed there. Neither was there a great need for anything other than a head for heights and a touch of bravado when my brother tied a rope around my waste and encouraged me to climb Everest with him (a hundred-year-old beech tree at the family farm), always failing to remind me that coming down was an awful lot harder than going up. Having said that, a Sat Nav may have been useful when both siblings played the game of abandoning me in the middle of a bog so that I had to find my own way back home.
Look. I’m not completely daft. I do know that we need technology in our lives for businesses to thrive, for schools to be productive in the education of our children, for hospitals to provide the state-of-the-art care necessary to protect our well-being etc, etc. Indeed, without access to a computer and e-mail, I’d be unable to publish articles like this for Slugger, despite my inclination to submit a legibly written letter on crisp white paper and posted with a first class stamp. News is immediate. News stories transient. A writer can be doomed if they miss the boat with an opinion piece. So yes, I’m not a total technophobe.
I used to worry about what people thought of my reluctance to embrace technology, but these days not quite so much, because now I have a theory. When all the Apps fail and Twitter becomes twitless, when Tik has lost its Tok and Zoom finally zooms out, then I’ll be the only one left for any of you to get in touch with.
Home phone only.
Lynda Tavakoli’s poetry and prose are widely published.