Over the summer I finally succumbed to the taunts and ridicule of several close friends and family members, and got myself a smart phone.
‘At last!’ they all cried with relief, ‘Now you can check your email when you’re out and about, download handy apps, and surf the net from the playground/supermarket/school gates’.
In short, I would have no more excuses for not keeping in touch with the world.
One friend, another writing mum with two small kids, confided that her smart-phone had changed her life – whereas before, when she had tried to read a book at home, one or other of her sticky offspring would attempt to snatch it off her, now with a smartphone she could download an ebook, keep the phone up the sleeve of her jumper and when the kids were engrossed in Cbeebies or Lego, simply slip the phone into the palm of her hand like a conjuring trick and read a quick chapter. I wasn’t entirely convinced so she went on to show me how her phone had a handy ‘notebook’ facility where she could ‘jot down’ her ideas in a kind of text. I pointed out that I had an actual notebook where I wrote my ideas with an actual pen, at which she smiled kindly and asked me how I got my handwritten notes into the laptop –
‘I type them in, of course,’ I retorted.
‘And that’s where you’re going wrong, isn’t it?’ she replied, ‘You could be using that typing-in time for something else.’
As though I had just admitted to baking my own cornflakes.
Anyway, I’ll admit it; the first few days with my new phone were a kind of honeymoon period. It was so big and shiny, and incredibly sleek – more like a posh powder compact than a means of communication. I kept a special chamois cloth on my desk to polish it, and tried not to touch it unless my hands were really clean. I missed several calls but it was worth it. And of course when I actually did leave the house I invariably left it at the bottom of my bag and forgot all about it. Until that is, one fateful day towards the end of the holidays, when I promised Dexter a trip to the local park and a lolly of his choosing from the ice-cream van.
I was in a fairly good mood having earlier that day received an email (which I picked up old-school fashion on my laptop) from an editor thanking me for an article I’d written. Dexter was also in a good mood because he loves the swings and I was going to let him have his first ever pop-up lolly. Pop-up lollies, as any parent knows, require a good deal of training to master, because if you pop them up too cautiously they melt all over your hand, and if you pop them too vigorously they pop right out of the wrapper and fall on your shoe. Anyway this was Dexter’s first lesson in the art of the pop-up and he was progressing well, if a little stickily. As I still had half a packet of wet-wipes to spare and he had roughly two thirds of the lolly to go, I reckoned I had ten minutes in which to check my email and see if any exciting new houses had been added to Rightmove (I’m not proud – it’s a sad addiction). How I wish I hadn’t bothered, the editor who’d contacted me that morning had sent another urgent email asking me to cut 300 words from my piece by midday. I realised that I had just 45 minutes in which to bundle Dexter back into the pushchair, steam back home, and get to work. Meanwhile Dexter was waiting expectantly by the swings with a face covered in orange goo that did nothing to mask his expression of complete trust in me and happiness at being in his favourite place in the whole world. Surely better to just pretend I hadn’t got the email in time and preserve his innocence….or not.
Ten minutes later and we were power-buggy-pushing back up the hill, me drenched in sweat, and Dexter plastered with wet wipes, wailing at the injustice of it all. His first pop-up lolly experience had been cruelly truncated, and the consolation box of raisins was not making up for his loss in any way at all. He was still glaring at me as I hurriedly edited my article on the laptop. Even though I’d let him watch three episodes of Octonauts back to back and given him half the Fry’s Peppermint Cream Bar I had bought myself to assuage the tedium of an hour at the swings.
Later on when I told Dexter’s Dad about the trials and tribulations caused by my so-called smart phone, he wasted no time informing me that I could have just edited the article at the park on my phone, whilst pushing the swing and eating all my chocolate myself.
“Well that’s just great,” I retorted. “Next you’ll be telling me that someone’s invented an app that does the ironing, cleans out the cat’s litter tray, and gets baked beans out from under the sofa cushions.”
But he wasn’t listening anymore, he was too busy showing Dexter how to play Angry Birds on my new phone.