After years of not wearing one, I recently bought myself a fairly cheap and very shiny new wristwatch. It does double duty, blinding my enemies with its ruthless, flashing glare and allowing me to learn the time of day without going anywhere near a digital device, most importantly my smartphone. The latter is obviously the greatest of its two awesome powers.
(I chose this watch by brand, but not for any of the reasons people more commonly chose one brand over another. I liked the name (Lorus), which made me think of slow lorises, and that made me imagine moving beyond mere slow food and straight into slow time.)
E.M. Forster clearly didn’t have in mind people tied to tiny computers each and every moment of the day when he urged us to “Only connect.” As someone who remembers life without computers and constant internet connectivity, I have a sense of what’s been lost: the quiet pleasure of receiving a handwritten letter in the mail; the ability or at least the possibility of only walking in the park, or of only hanging out with one’s dog or baby, or of only having dinner with someone amazing, or of only taking work calls at work on the work phone; the possibility of correcting a call centre employee’s pronunciation of my name or reminding same that marriage doesn’t necessarily mean the lady of the house has changed her name because this is, after all, the future (sort of); really never knowing what’s going to happen on that TV show tonight until actually watching it because there was no medium for conveying Terrible Spoilers.
Everyone seems to be on their phone all the time, in all places. If this is reality, surely I should accept it if I can’t embrace it; I should at least mind my own business. I generally do mind my own b, at least in purely practical terms, because while I may smirk and disapprove silently when I see a bored baby in a stroller being pushed along by someone yacking into their planet-sized iPhone 6, I don’t generally do or say anything about it.
(I confess that I have, on more than one occasion, but probably fewer than seven occasions, informed neglected diners in fancy restaurants of what a Captain Shitpanpake their date was for having a full-on strategy session on their phones while they sat twiddling their thumbs and looking uncomfortable.)
But I do get caught up in one beautiful and recurring daydream about inflicting even brief moments of disconnection upon passersby; it is a vision that is outrageous, curmudgeonly, dramatic and would probably be illegal if actually performed (which it hasn’t, at least not by me):
I imagine walking up to people and, somehow without hurting either them or myself, smacking their smartphones powerfully and gracefully out of their hands; of punting it high into the air, perhaps with a cricket mallet, where it hovers in slow motion, and glints in the sunlight before it spins and drops; of watching that phone fall suddenly to earth and land beneath the wheels of a remorseless and almost impossibly heavy transport truck; perhaps a transport truck shipping supplies between two black holes; heavy. And then instructing those astonished persons, in a stage whisper worthy of a manic Shakespearean actor afflicted with strep throat, “Now live. LIVE!!”
Of course, one just doesn’t (any of the above), for the most part. This is Canada; we can barely look each other in the face. But maybe the millennials will begin a revolution and instead of draft cards and bras, they’ll burn their mobile devices (or, even better, send them to earth-friendly recycling facilities and then go borrow a book from the library to cement that budding virtue). Or not. But damme if I don’t get an old-school Walkman and a fine camera that is really only a camera too, so that I need never take my fecking cell phone outside the house ever again.