Wednesday, September 07, 2005
My experiment of not owning a mobile phone looks to be coming to an end after just over a month. Someone has offered to give me their old handset and I can't think of a good enough reason to decline, I just need to get it unlocked and buy a pre-paid SIM.
So what of my experiment?
On a personal level I coped just fine without the phone, I still managed to keep in close contact with my extensive network of friends and admirers. However, I do need a phone for business, it's getting to be rather awkward and embarrassing without one.
So what have I learned and enjoyed, and what did I miss about not having a phone?
I learned that it is possible to meet up with someone at a designated time and place, you just need to be specific about where you are meeting and maybe do some research if the area is unfamiliar. A few years ago this was the norm, but it now seems unthinkable not to use a mobile phone to meet someone. I feel a little uneasy though, a little on edge as if I'm doing something risky and a little crazy. These feelings all pay off though when you meet up, the meeting instantly feels a bit special like something slightly amazing has happened. So many things could have gone wrong in either of your journeys and upset the outcome, but they didn't.
If you are meeting someone after a being apart for a long time, then the meeting is not spoiled by excessive pre-meet communication. The words you speak can be the first words exchanged in a long time, rather than you having suffered detailed journey updates from them for the last three hours "I'm just leaving the house now. Train is delayed, I may be 5 minutes late. I think I've just seen Gary Wilmot on the platform of the last station we passed. Tried to go to toilet on the train but I think it's blocked, will have to go to toilet in the station, so will be another couple of mins late. cu soon." this sort of mindless information can take away some of the magic.
People assume that you have a mobile phone. It can be quite satisfying to inform them that you haven't in a very matter of fact way (as if it's quite a normal situation and not an unnatural one) . "You'll need my email address then, I'll just text it to you. What's your number?"
"I don't have one, I don't have a phone."
"(pause) oh.. right (thinks: is that normal? maybe, maybe lots of people don't have mobile phones I've never thought about it before, I always just assumed...) I'll just write it down on some paper then, do you have a pen?"
I enjoy asking people for the time. Nobody seems to do that these days apart from weird people.
I hated text messages, I was addicted to sending them to inform people about what I was doing, or little anecdotes I'd played a part in. It would enhance nobody's life to get almost instant updates of these happenings.
I missed a plane the other day and after the frustration had died down and I'd come to terms with wasting the rest of the day in airports, I sat down and thought "what shall I do now?". "I know I'll text people to tell them that I've missed the plane and will be spending the rest of the day in the airport waiting for the next flight." What purpose would this serve? Nobody would be interested in knowing this, nobody was waiting for me to land on the other end. I was simply bored and hoping to share my boredom with other people, and if they didn't text back then what does this say? They don't care about my boredom? They have more important things to do? Luckily I didn't have a phone.
And another example:
Yesterday I unintentionally walked behind Harry Hill while he was being filmed (presumable spoiling the shot, as a man with a clipboard scowled at me). If I had a phone then would have informed at least 4 people about this within the hour. As I didn't, I now have a (rather lame) Harry Hill , or filming anecdote saved up that nobody knows about. In the long term I'm sure this will make me a more interesting person. All sorts of interesting things could have happened to me and people would never know, but they could guess. If I was in the habit of telling people the most mundane things in my life they will assume nothing out of the ordinary ever happens.
I also felt nothing like the disappointment of landing after a long haul flight and turning on your phone to no messages. I used to send a message to myself to make sure the system was working and to 'push' though any messages trapped in the system - but there were none.
What I did like about text messages was the ability to scribble down thoughts I had. I'd send myself a text message with my observation so I wouldn't forget it. It acted as a notebook or dictaphone. I also liked to think that as it cost me 10p to send the message. The act of typing it in and sending it to myself instantly valued my thought at at least 10p.
I guess I lost many thoughts when I lost my phone, but I did go through them and copy them to a notebook occasionally (to stop my message box filling up).
All these thoughts or observations are worth at least 10p:
"Create start-up packs for illegal businesses : drug dealing, prostitution"
"Motto is 'indulge yourself'"
"What to do when crossing the road on red when there are kids waiting?"
"All seriousness aside"
"If nobody is afraid of me I am useless"
"People making out in a SMART car"
"T-shirt with British Coal logo. All old national industry logos"
"Make Beauty and the Beast movie but with the most minging beast ever, like from Alien"
"Urgencies - term for French A&E"
"Hi, I'm John. Would anyone like some of my kebab? John Peel"
"Worried about flying, don't care about crash as such, but more that I will be reading some book and not get the chance to tell people how amazing it is"