Time

I think the mobile phone ruined us.

There used to be a time when we always had to be on time. When we said, “Hey, let’s meet at 7pm!”, we actually met at 6.59pm both anxiously cowering next to the pre-debated landmark.

Confused One: The Primark door closest to the back.
More Confused One: Which back?
Confused One: The back closest to marble arch, obviously.
More Confused One: Ummm. Oh fine, let’s just meet under the big clock in the square.
Confused One: Gotcha. Time thingy. Square place. Gotcha.
There always seemed to be enough inordinately large clocks to go around back in the day.
Lateness was a sin; you might miss each other and then you just go home; buffed, painted and disappointed. There was no greater shame; it was so heinous you almost felt as if you should do a burnt offering in penitent atonement. We would allow time for tube delays, detours, pit stops, snack breaks and traffic and bloody force majeure.
We used to touch paper all the time and take for granted the dry friction beneath our fingers. We didn’t give a toss about deforestation and frequently decimated rainforests with joyful abandon to make cute notebooks, planners, diaries and never-ending stashes of tube maps. We took flyers with polite reluctance. We exchanged business cards with smug self-importance. At all times, a pen always lolled somewhere close to a forgotten tube of lipstick in the bottom of our handbags. We would do the Elbow-Down Shimmy, whisking the contents of our bags into a vortex in the mindless pursuit of that very pen. That pen did so much. It doodled hearts around the names of beaux, scratched more than noted numbers of future romances on arms (too much moisturizer, dammit!)
There used to be a time when dialling a phone number was Nobel Peace prize-worthy stuff. The circular dialler was almost sadistic in how it would inch in a microscopic crawl back from nine, mocking you with its slovenly ways. If someone’s phone number was 0181 999 9999, you’d give them a look that comingled shock, offence and an unholy desire to slap before culminating in sadness over what would have been a beautiful friendship.
There was a time when you had a choice of either a phone or the internet. You had to make peace with the members of the household before you hijacked the only outbound line with the banshee screeches of the dial-up modem.
There used to be a time when being stood up was entirely more traumatic. You would wait and wait, munching on breadsticks with a leg twitching beneath the starched white table cloth. You would genuinely worry over the fate of your errant date, hypothesizing that they got lost or ‘something terrible’ had happened.
There used to be a time when we just didn’t know something so we read books or (shock horror) discussed the issue. For as long as leisure allowed, we all became like philosophers of old; Lauricus verses Lindipholus.
Then somewhere around 2002, “we” swiftly disintegrated into “I”. The solo pursuit of information and entertainment was eroded into being.
And then came the Nokia 3310, the first truly pervasive handset. You know the one; hipsters use it now doggedly conforming to non-conformity, choking on self-referential cynicism. That beloved brick begat smaller models, smaller begat brighter, brighter begat smarter. I remember spending hours directing a thick black line to gorge itself on black dots to earn bragging rights over my fellow Neanderthals. We weren’t getting any smaller, brighter or smarter. We used to compose “polyphonic” ring tones with gummy, plastic buttons and felt like Mozart. But somehow over time, these things were never enough. We have to go faster, clearer, thinner, shinier and edgier.
And in a way I guess we got smarter. We were clever enough to simultaneously isolate and connect ourselves. We networked ourselves until we got sick of it; green we were as we witnessed the well-timed beauty of another’s life as they eyed us back the same grassy stare. Avarice and vanity and covetousness became a sickness. An epidemic raging through millions, leaving us all identically contoured and waist-trained. When we bit deeply into that apple, we learned jealousy.
Now silence even means something different. It means I don’t “want to contact you”; not “I can’t”. Now girlfriends gathered over pinot noir will all gasp and “ironically” snap their fingers when sister girl announces he “double blue-ticked” her.
I think the phone made us sinners too. In a way. And bred a new breed of suspicion. We created logic based on which way he places his phone. Face down and he’s definitely Casanova reborn. In fact, the new way to say “I love you” is to give someone your phone pin number.
I have a confession: I am having an illicit affair with Sam(sung). He lulls me to sleep in those quiet moments last thing at night and rouses me at 6.15am in just the right way. He holds my hand, is my ever-ready plus one; he makes me happy. He makes me look smarter. I’d never tell him, but I think I love my phone more than my boyfriend. I worry about his health, and my breath stops when he falls over. I’d hate for him to break something… And when he breaks down my heart breaks and I’ve never felt so alone. I mourn Sam as much as I could mourn any other loved one, shedding dry tears at his passing. I have to prepare myself to open my heart to love again. Despite it all, I have to rush to heal and replace dear Sam, because I just can’t spare the time.

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