To my friend who does not need to have a smart-phone to feel “smart”.
First, we used to joke at her: “How come you don’t have a smart-phone?” “Oh, she doesn’t use Whatsapp so we can’t invite her to come for dinner.”
Sometimes, I would provoke her concealing my admiration for her detachment toward technology: “Oh, you didn’t see the video we are talking about because we sent it to the Whatsapp group!”
She would draw a smile on her face which I’d perceive as an honest answer: “I really don’t give a damn about that.”
However, we are not entirely convinced that she can survive without a proper phone.
What about being stuck on the tube? What do you do without Spotify or ITunes?
What do you do without Google’s map? I mean, how do you get anywhere in London (or in life!)?
Wouldn’t you want to read the news on the commute to work? What about following your favourite channel on YouTube?
She walks to work, she says. She writes hand letters to her boyfriend and has no desire to buy clothes online using her phone. The idea of making faces and mouths in front of a mobile camera does not appeal to her either.
We insist. Well, I do.
What if you have to wait for a friend at a restaurant? How can you sit there at the table and stare at the wall oblivious to the fact that even couples these days do not talk to each other without checking their phones from time to time?
Don’t you feel the angst need to check your email hundreds of times — even if it’s just to confirm you received an offer in Time Out’s newsletter? Or to use WhatsApp to make sure that friend not only received your message, but read it and have not replied. Don’t you want to check “who likes who” or what is trendy in social media?
And you keep smiling with the same simplicity!
“You and your banana phone”, we joke.
Whenever we see a banana, we remember of Al’s phone next to her desk as an obsolete object that even a child wouldn’t know what to do with.
The other day I saw a man on the train holding a banana in one hand, and typing on the smart-phone with the other, and that instantly remind me of Al. I sent an email to her. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking: wouldn’t be so much quicker to just send her a WhatsApp message?
“Al, you might debate on whether you need to adhere to technology and embrace the new. Some people get really attached to old gadget as this guy on the tube last night carrying his banana with him, but adventuring on WhatsApp — I took a picture to inspire you. Al, you can still have your banana phone, but there is a new world waiting for you enclosed in a slim and compact smart-phone. Think about it.”
Of course I was joking.
She replied to me saying that her parents will give her a new phone on Christmas. “My mum said she wanted to give one to me. If it wasn’t for that, I think I wouldn’t bother. It will be handy to be able to face time my mum and ask for her help when I’m shopping and can’t decide on what to pick? And message J. and my friends when I’m travelling?” says Al, unconvinced.
I cannot picture her at lunch time checking her Instagram account though.
Perhaps, she will be one of those people who never replies to WhatsApp group messages. She will make excuses and distract herself eating 3 apples in one go: “I didn’t see you message, I was busy living my life, and I lost count of how many apples I had today.”
Will she still talk about her cat with such impersonal and still engaging way? Will she start to share photos of it with us? Will we send her an emoji back to say it is cute?
She will get overwhelmed and will hide her phone under the pillow. “I don’t want this thing!”
She will not be able to comment on the photos we share and will not be able to liberate that spiritual laugh that makes her shoulders wobbly, via online chat. She will not waste any comment and will not do small talk. She is economic with her words and use them wisely in the precise time.
How she will be sure which emoji smile suits her mood?
She will not be able to communicate without the eye contact and the natural interval of silence that sinks in the middle of conversations. She will not have the last app downloaded and will not “heart” people on social media. She will not feel the urge to check her phone every five minutes — simply, she will not check it at all. Or Google something she is not too sure in the middle of the conversation as we lesser mortals do, because we cannot go home with such doubt in our heads — “so what is the name of that film?” “Let me Google it for you”. She will never use that language.
I reckon she will dismiss the brave new (smart-phone) world. She will gladly keep using her banana phone and send us awkward jokes to our work email. She will keep being spontaneous and bravely original.
I will always compare my mum’s progress with technology to hers (“even my mum doesn’t have a banana phone!”). My mum who can now make call on WhatsApp, and sometimes awakes me in the middle of the night with an unplanned call as she presses the bottom without realising. Later, I wait for her text: “Paloma, is everything Ok??? Did you call me?!”