I remember a time, maybe 20 years ago, when mobile phones were these objects making our lives easier, allowing us to stay in touch with people but still not the 'smart' technological gadgets they are now.
I have my friends' words in my memory as he was struggling to juggle his diary whilst on the phone to book a meeting, he wanted a single device that incapsulated all the tools he needed during his day, from a calendar to a camera, calculator and even a remote to open his car!
It didn't take that long for smart phones to appear and his desire to be realised and now, how can we do without this unique and powerful gadget?
We have learnt to rely on its powers for entertainment purposes, to take pictures, tell the time and keep in touch with people.. but also, phones have become a place where our lives are summed up, controlled and regulated…. and loosing your phone can make for a very interesting few days, especially when you drop it in the Adriatic sea!
A week after clumsily dropping my phone as I was trying to find something to hold on to whilst climbing a steep passerella to get on board Frizzante, here is what I learnt:
1. EE (and possibly other networks too) make it really difficult to send you a replacement… apparently to verify your address and identity they need to send you a verification code to your phone and it can only be the one with your register phone number …. Doh… I can see a problem here…
2. After being told the only way to get an upgrade and a new phone was to go in store (I'm currently in Croatia and supposed to keep traveling for 2months) I had to argue with 3 different staff and a department manager. Eventually I was told I sounded 'genuine enough' and somebody would call me to allow me to pay them more every month and get an upgrade (too generous, thank you!)
3. A new phone can only be sent to your home address via DPD courier who's not allowed to leave it safe….. the DPD system allows you to deliver to neighbours, but that doesn't include different flats within your address as the whole building is considered as a single address. This meant that they tried to deliver 3 times and failed each time but no one knows which flat they tried! With each 'chat support' I ended up speaking to different staff but with the same reference number so they could all see previous messages. Each time I explained they were trying to deliver my phone as I lost mine and each time I was told the best way to ensure delivery was to download the app and send a picture of the door where the delivery was to be made (Was I not clear enough? … I DON'T HAVE A PHONE! so I can't download the app OR take a picture!) AAAARGHHHH!
4. Forget banking of any kind, on a computer or any other kind as to get into your account you need an OTP sent to… yes you guessed it! your phone!! If abroad only get cash in a machine directly connected to a bank or your card might be eaten and you have to wait a week to get it back! …. Guess I won't be paying for dinner after all ;-)…. how do you order a new card? …. oh yes wait, you need your phone!
5. Getting around a new town or figuring out transport and times becomes impossible without a phone… luckily I had my partner to take control and guide me through… but how do you deal with the involuntary twitch of your hands when the only thing your brain wants to do is tear that phone away from him and get to the answer quicker than he does??
6. How many times can you ask "what time is it?" without sounding like you don't want to be there? I have genuinely spent the last few days with no clear idea of the time other than around sunset and sunrise
7. Idle times become difficult without a 'distraction device' …. even more so when your partner is happily checking his social profiles, emails or messages… and you're just sitting there!…. I didn't think I could feel jealous of someone else having a phone!
8. When traveling you have to print EVERYTHING, every travel document and now entry forms… and to do so you need to find someone who will print it for you! You must be on time for every part of the journey and not get lost as there's no easy map to take you places or easy way to check alternatives if you shuttle bus doesn't arrive on time. (How do you book an Uber without a phone??) A lot more planning involved! But at least you can feel like you're in the 80s again by arranging for a friend to come and pick you up….there's nothing like fixing a time and place and trust your friend to be there! but of course it might not work… no room for unexpected road closures! ????
9. Then of course there's music… there's nothing worse than having no choice on the music you're subject to… how did we choose music before Spotify playlists??
10. But what I missed the most are the pictures…. the pictures I lost as they didn't upload to the cloud in time and the pictures I didn't take…that perfect shot of Frizzante as a lonely boat in the deserted channel between Slano and Dubrovnik taken from the top of the hill. That once in a lifetime opportunity that would have made a recurring yearly memory on Facebook and made smile like I did from the bus when I recognised my boat sliding through calm waters at the beginning of her long journey home. I hope my memory will be good enough to keep the colours vivid and the frame clear to remember it for a long long time.
Frustration has been the overwhelming feeling of this experience, the realisation that we depend so much on the ONE object that has our entire life in it… how did we cope before?
But also loss, opportunity loss, time wasted chasing rainbows and sorting out what would have been a simple problem with a simple solution made difficult by the need of added security created by our reliance on a single point of storage of digital information… a circular problem!
Conflicting emotions every time I reached for my phone only to remember a moment later it's not there anymore….that easy solution to a maths problem, a diary reminder or the desire to connect with a friend… all stopped and substituted by idle, silent time staring at the landscape.
I wish I could say this experience made me a better person, able to stop and enjoy the moment, capable of being idle without getting frustrated, but I'm not sure that's the case… not being able to provide a quick solution to a problem is not me. Being dependent on someone else when you know they are doing their best, but you could have been so much more efficient with the right 'tool' irritates me… it's far from calming… how did we manage 20 years ago?? and can we go back to a world where solutions where not so easily found?
I'm not sure I can, but hopefully, by the time I get a new phone I will be able to refrain from the instinct of picking it up just to fill time or to distract me and will only really use it for what it was intended… a convenient solution to everyday problems, helping you save time to be able to have more idle moments looking at the scenery and really enjoy them, with no distractions.